A few weeks ago, at the request of the South Korean government, Our new President rushed deployment of the new THAAD Anti-missile System to help defend South Korea, Japan, and our assets in the western Pacific Theater. But that deployment took place at the request of the old government. Now there seems to be a roadblock.
The Deployment of the US anti-missile system in South Korea has hit a snag, as the new government has decided to order a full-scale environmental impact investigation before the any further deployments of assets. New President Moon Jae-in is a vocal critic of the previous government’s decision to host the THAAD system and seems determined to stand in its way.
South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo said on Tuesday, “The order to conduct an environmental impact assessment is a guideline to enhance the procedural legitimacy of the deployment, so the defense ministry will review ways to conduct such a study,” The decision means that it could now be more than a year before the ongoing deployment of the system can continue. That is a year that leaves the area with limited defenses to the growing threat of North Korea’s growing nuclear aspirations.
The study is just the latest roadblock the new South Korean government’s has used in the review of the controversial deal signed under the previous administration. The new government says the defense ministry allegedly used a number of legal loopholes to expedite the deployment of the US anti-missile system and shield it from public scrutiny. One such loophole, according to President Moon Jae-in’s office, is the partitioning of the land plot allocated for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system into two smaller ones. The ministry has agreed to provide a total of 690,000 square meters of land for the system, but has so far filed documents for only 320,000 square meters, the office said on Monday.
Jae-in says the reason is that under South Korean law, any deployment of equipment requiring more than 330,000 square meters of land must be subjected to a full-scale environmental impact assessment, while smaller projects only require a small informal test. Further transfers of land would be under the threshold as well, shielding the deployment from more rigorous scrutiny, the allegation goes.
Seoul suspects that the defense ministry was involved in an effort to make the THAAD deployment appear smaller than it actually is. Moon was elected in May after the previous government fell in a corruption scandal resulting in the impeachment of Park Geun-hye. He pledged to make the project more transparent, including subjecting it to parliamentary approval.
The anti-missile deal, which was signed under former US President Barack Obama, faced criticism in Washington as well, with President Donald Trump suggesting that Seoul should pay for it. Meanwhile, Kim Jung-un continues to work on developing his ballistic missiles and atomic weapons putting the whole area in potential danger. I hope the new Korean President gets his study done before Kim decides to make the whole area “Transparent”.