The site of the U.S. missile defense shield scheduled for deployment in South Korea is expected to be announced this week, according to the Yonhap News Agency.
The likely choice for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile shield is the Lotte golf course in Seongju. The location will be announced before the end of September once the residents are briefed.
Washington, D.C., and Seoul announced the deployment of THAAD July 7. The South Korean government revealed one week later that the missile shield will be located in Seongju in the southern portion of the country.
South Korean defense officials are considering several different locations in Seongju for THAAD, but debates about the location are wrapping up.
Initial plans would place THAAD in Seongsan-ri, but residents claim it was too close to residential areas, reports The Korean Times. In response, the South Korean government began investigating alternative locations, namely Mt. Yeomsok, Mt. Kkachi, and Lotte Skyhill Country Club, late last month.
The golf course is much more isolated than the artillery base where THAAD was originally to be located. Installing THAAD further from residential areas alleviates concerns that the THAAD X-band radar would negatively impact the health of residents living near the missile shield.
While defense officials favor the golf course, resident protests are still likely. As the THAAD battery would face the nearby city of Gimcheon, residents have already promised a “full-scale protest” if the golf course is selected. Gimcheon rallied at the end of August against THAAD.
South Korea is divided on THAAD.
While some assert that it is a necessary tool to protect the country from North Korean provocations, others fear that it only ensures nuclear conflict wth North Korea. South Korean President Park Geun-hye has become much more supportive of THAAD since North Korea launched three ballistic missiles Sept. 5 and conducted its fifth nuclear test Sept. 9.
In spite of the tests, numerous South Korean citizens fear that THAAD will make them a target in a potential conflict with North Korea. As China firmly opposes THAAD on grounds that it threatens Chinese national security, many South Koreans are worried that installing THAAD in South Korea will spark a dangerous Cold War scenario with China, which has already threatened to take “necessary measures” to counter the U.S. deployment of THAAD.
If defense officials select the golf course, they will also need to get parliamentary approval for the $90.6 million required to purchase the site. This too is a challenge for the THAAD program.
THAAD is scheduled to be deployed next year.
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