By: Aaron Mehta
WASHINGTON — Following North Korea’s July 28 launch of what the Pentagon has termed an intercontinental ballistic missile, the South Korean government has called for increased deployment of launchers for its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system — an apparent change of heart for the new government of South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
While the THAAD system technically came online earlier this year, the full system has not been deployed, with only two of the six launchers out in the field. Each THAAD unit consists of six truck-mounted launchers, 49 interceptors, a fire-control and communications unit, and an AN/TPY-2 radar. That radar has been a focal point of contention with China, who claims the radar could be used to spy into their territory.
The Moon government had previously slow-rolled the deployment of the remaining four THAAD launchers, citing the need for an environmental assessment that was skipped by the previous government. The president was quoted in local media calling for the “temporary” deployment of the remaining launchers.
Asked about Moon’s comments, a Pentagon spokesman said South Korea and the U.S. will “continue to coordinate on all aspects of the deployment of the THAAD system,” but referred any further questions to Seoul.
Jenny Town, assistant director of the US-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said THAAD remains a politically divisive issue in South Korea.
“There was a feeling within the government that the way the deployment was first announced, it didn’t go through due process, didn’t have an environmental assessment done and didn’t have National Assembly approval,” Town said. “And there is still a lot of the public who sees it as a measure to protect American military, given the placement and the way things were done. Public sentiment is still very divided as to whether or [not] it’s a good idea.”
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