South Korea’s recently elected President Moon Jae-in ordered a probe at the South Korean Defense Ministry earlier this week, in response to the Ministry’s “intentionally drop[ping]” mentioning that four more launchers had been deployed for the American Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD. According to Blue House spokesman Yoon Young-chan, President Moon commented that it was “very shocking” that the THAAD launchers were brought into South Korea without alerting Moon’s government.
Yoon confirmed that the Defense Ministry had purposefully left out the recent developments of the THAAD system and the deployment of the new launchers in a report last week. In addition, the Pentagon insisted that it had been transparent with the South Korean government on the deployment of THAAD. Spokesman Jeff Davis commented that “We continue to work very closely with the Republic of Korea government and we have been very transparent in all of our actions throughout this process.”
The previous conservative government of South Korea, led by ex-president Park Geun Hye, approved the deployment of the THAAD system. This system was first deployed in Seongju this past March to counter the perceived threat of North Korea and its missile threats. This decision was met with controversy from both other nations and the South Korean people, especially the residents of Seongju. After Park’s removal from the presidency due to several scandals, current president Moon ran a campaign during the presidential elections that included reviewing the THAAD deployment.
In his campaign, Moon also emphasized a more moderate approach to North Korea compared to his predecessor. He called for more engagement and communication with North Korea and its leader Kim Jung Eun. This approach was cause for concern for many conservative Koreans and people around the world, as North Korea has recently been pursuing more nuclear weapon and missile programs. Many believe that the THAAD system is effective protection against possible North Korean attacks.
However, some nations have strongly opposed the deployment of THAAD in South Korea, causing tension in East Asia. The strongest opponent of THAAD is China, which believes that THAAD is a threat to its own national security. This is because of the THAAD system’s radar range, as well as the potential that the deployment of an American military system has for increased deployment in the area. China protested that the THAAD system would neither deter North Korean missiles nor protect South Korea from missiles. Furthermore, China sees the THAAD system as a way for the US military to use the radar to gain secret intelligence on China and its own missiles. As a result of THAAD deployment, China has boycotted several South Korean companies and banned Chinese tourists from visiting South Korea. The instability of the THAAD system’s deployment and the rising tensions between East Asian countries raises concerns for the global community, especially with North Korea’s continuous missile tests and threats.