Push to deploy THAAD sparks protests

By China Daily - Xinhua | China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-27 07:01

China voices grave concern, vows to safeguard its security interests

SEOUL - Protesters and major presidential candidates condemned the push to deploy the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system just weeks before the Republic of Korea elects a new leader.

Early on Wednesday, about 20 trucks and trailers carried the THAAD elements, including a radar and mobile launchers, to a golf course at Soseong-ri village in Seongju, South Gyeongsang province.

The golf course, which Lotte Group had owned, was exchanged for military land in February. On March 6, two mobile launchers were transported to a US military base in the country.

China has expressed "serious concerns" over the deployment, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Wednesday, adding it will resolutely take necessary measures to defend its own interest.

"We strongly urge the US and ROK to cancel the deployment of THAAD and withdraw related equipment," he said, asking the two sides stop behaviors that intensify regional tensions and damage China's strategic security interests.

"We have expressed solemn concerns to the US and ROK," Geng said, adding that the deployment will break regional strategic balance and further provoke tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

"It does not help to realize the goal of denuclearization on the peninsula as well as regional peace and stability. It goes against the efforts of solving the issue through dialogue and negotiations, and severely damages China's strategic security interests," he said.

In February, the ROK Defense Ministry said it would be hard to install one THAAD battery at the site before the May 9 presidential election due to the remaining procedures such as the foundation work and the environmental assessment.

On Wednesday, tens of US military trucks entered the golf course despite attempts to block the entrance by local residents and peace activists who were violently dispersed by thousands of policemen.

One resident was carried away, with about 10 others being wounded. Among them, six were taken to a hospital.

The hurried, violent push for the missile system installation was aimed to politicize security issues during the presidential election campaign, local residents said.

Voter support

Conservative politicians tended to welcome or even boost tensions with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to boost voter support.

An early presidential election is scheduled for May 9 as former president Park Geun-hye was impeached in March.

The Soseong-ri villagers demanded an immediate removal of the THAAD, which was installed without the consent or parliamentary discussions. They have vowed to continue their anti-THAAD rallies, which began with the announcement in July of the THAAD deployment decision.

An election campaign office for Moon Jae-in of the biggest Minjoo Party expressed strong regrets over the THAAD deployment, reiterating Moon's position that the final decision on THAAD must be made by next government, according to sufficient discussions and public consensus.

The front-runner's camp said the government and the Defense Ministry must make clear what roles they played in the THAAD deployment, urging the installation to be stopped.

The spokesman for Ahn Cheol-soo of the center-right People's Party also expressed regrets, saying the installation should have been pushed without tussles with residents and according to procedures. Ahn is a runner-up to Moon in recent opinion polls.

 Push to deploy THAAD sparks protests

People hold a rally to protest against the deployment of an advanced US missile defense system on Wednesday, near US embassy in Seoul.Lee Jinman / Associated Press

(China Daily 04/27/2017 page12)

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