The THAAD missile defense system was deployed in South Korea despite vehement opposition from China and from a leading candidate in South Korea’s upcoming presidential election.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday that significant pieces of the THAAD (Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense) system were installed on the former site of a golf course in the southern region of the country.
“South Korea and the United States have been working to secure an early operational capability of the THAAD system in response to North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threat,” the ministry stated, according to Reuters.
The system is scheduled to be operational by the end of the year, the ministry added.
The deployment of THAAD is part of an effort by the United States and South Korea to rein in continued missile launches and tests by North Korea.
During his trip to the region last week, US Vice-President Mike Pence vowed that the US will stand by its allies in the the Asia-Pacific region in the wake of rising tensions with North Korea.
“While all options are on the table, President Trump is determined to work closely with Japan, with South Korea, with all our allies in the region, and with China (on the North Korean issue),” Pence said.
While the US has consulted with China, one of North Korea’s primary trading partners, the Chinese government has vehemently expressed its opposition to the deployment of THAAD, viewing it as a threat to the region’s security balance.
“The deployment of THAAD in South Korea will destroy the strategic balance in the region and bring about a further increase in tensions,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday. “The Chinese side strongly urges the U.S. and South Korea to cancel the deployment and withdraw the equipment.”
The installation of THAAD also comes shortly before South Korea’s upcoming presidential elections on May 9, in which Democratic Party candidate Moon Jae-in, who is leading in the polls, has expressed opposition to THAAD’s deployment without “national consensus.”
“Moon Jae-in has been consistent in his position on the THAAD deployment: that it must be decided by the next administration after enough public discussion and by national consensus,” said the candidate’s spokesperson, Park Kwang-on.
“Any deployment that completely ignores appropriate processes must be suspended now and the final decision should be made after consultation between South Korea and the US,” he stated.
By: Jonathan Benedek, World Israel News