SEOUL, June 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's defense ministry began preparations for a full-blown environmental impact assessment on the ongoing deployment of the U.S. THAAD missile defense system Tuesday, a ministry official said, a move that will inevitably delay its operation.
The move came one day after President Moon Jae-in personally ordered a thorough study on the environmental impact of the advanced missile shield, which, when fully deployed, will consist of at least six rocket launchers with 48 rockets designed to intercept aerial threats flying over the peninsula.
The system has been and currently is subject to a "small, informal" environmental assessment afforded by what Seoul's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae has referred to as systematic efforts by the country's defense ministry to make the THAAD battery appear smaller in size and scale.
Under an agreement, Seoul is set to provide some 700,000 square meters of land for the deployment of the missile defense system to be operated for and by U.S. Forces Korea but will boost the country's own defense capabilities as well.
Under the law, any new installation of equipment or facilities that affect more than 330,000 square meters of land must first be assessed for their environmental impact before being deployed or built.
The THAAD system, however, was able to be deployed here as the defense ministry provided only 320,000 square meters of land first, subjecting it only to the ongoing "small and informal" evaluation.
The remaining 380,000 square meters of land promised under the THAAD agreement is set to be provided later, again exempting the THAAD deployment from a full-blown environmental impact assessment, Cheong Wa Dae said earlier, citing the outcome of its recent probe on the issue.
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