South Korea on Thursday completed the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system, built by the US, on its territory with the installation of four additional missile interceptors amid overnight clashes between residents and the security forces that left dozens injured.
Locals opposed its deployment over its potential environmental impact as well as over concerns that it might make them a direct target of a North Korean attack, Efe news reported.
Due to the growing threat posed by North Korea’s repeated weapons tests, the government decided to press on with the system’s provisional deployment.
“We have decided to temporarily deploy the remaining launchers along with US construction equipment and materials (…) to prepare for the heightened security situation in North Korea due to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” the South Korean Defence Ministry said in a statement.
Some 8,000 policemen were sent to the site in response to some 400 protesters who formed human chains and tried to stop the launchers being brought to the nearby artillery base.
South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon admitted that the decision to deploy the THAAD was difficult but necessary in order to “protect the lives and safety of the people in response to the sophistication of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes,” according to Yonhap agency.
The deployment — approved by the previous government led by Park Geun-hye who was impeached in March over a massive corruption scandal — was halted in June by the new government of President Moon Jae-in pending an environmental impact study.
The Defence Ministry pointed out that the installation is provisional and a permanent deployment would follow only after the study has been completed.
“The battery will be operational as soon as the US finishes its internal procedures,” Ministry spokesperson Moon Sang-gyun said at a press conference, reported Yonhap news agency.
The launchers installed on Thursday were added to the two already set up on the site, an old golf course located about 300 km south of Seoul.
The full deployment of the THAAD, which consists of at least six launchers, comes 14 months after Washington and Seoul in July 2016 agreed to install it on South Korean territory to counteract the North Korean threat.