Military vehicles transport missiles to the site of the THAAD base in the town of Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province. (Yonhap)
The US Forces Korea (USFK) said Friday its THAAD anti-missile system installed in South Korea is a "safe and reliable" asset, as a political debate has been rekindled here over the ideologically sensitive matter in the run-up to the March 9 presidential election.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system has emerged as a hot-button issue during the election season, as Yoon Suk-yeol, the presidential candidate of the conservative main opposition People Power Party, pledged to push for "additional THAAD deployment" in a Facebook post on Sunday in the wake of North Korea's missile test binge.
A THAAD battery was first deployed to the southeastern county of Seongju in 2017. It has since been in the status of "temporary installation" pending South Korea's environmental impact assessment.
"As agreed upon during the 53rd Security Consultative Meeting, both the ROK and US committed to continuing close cooperation regarding THAAD -- a safe and reliable defensive system that enables USFK to fulfill its obligation to protect and defend the ROK against any threat or adversary," USFK spokesperson Col. Lee Peters told Yonhap News Agency. ROK stands for South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea.
Peters was referring to the defense ministerial talks between the South and the US in Seoul in December, where the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to the stable stationing of the THAAD battery.
The spokesperson also pointed out that "any decision regarding the future employment of THAAD will be a bilaterally agreed upon decision," apparently reaffirming Washington's commitment to handling the alliance issue via close coordination with Seoul.
Since its installation in Seongju, Seoul has sought to support the stable stationing of the THAAD battery, but the efforts have been hampered by residents' protests amid concerns about potential health risks associated with electromagnetic waves from its radar. (Yonhap)