SEOUL – South Korea’s Ministry of Environment has decided to conditionally consent to the deployment of a US missile defence system, paving the way to full operation of the system despite opposition from local residents and China.
“The environment ministry is known to have reached the decision after reviewing the result of the defence ministry’s environmental impact survey of the site of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province,” sources told Yonhap news agency.
The defence ministry last month released the result of its survey of electromagnetic radiation and noise from Thaad at a former golf course in Seongju, some 300 km south-east of Seoul. It found the potential environmental impact to be limited, Yonhap reported. It said the radiation and noise levels detected were either far below, or on par with regulatory standards.
The report said the environment ministry is expected to give its consent on the condition of continued and strengthened monitoring to ease local residents’ concerns.
South Korea said in June that it will hold off installing remaining components of the Thaad system until it completes an assessment of the system’s impact on the environment.
The Thaad deployment was agreed during the administration of former President Park Geun Hye. Two Thaad launchers and a powerful radar have already been deployed and are in operation in Seongju, in the North Gyeongsang Province.
But President Moon Jae In’s administration had suspended any further rollout, citing the need for a thorough environmental impact survey.
A typical Thaad battery consists of six launchers and a radar.
The ministry’s report comes a day after North Korea detonated what it described as a hydrogen bomb designed for a long-range missile, calling the test “a perfect success”.
The underground blast was the North’s sixth nuclear test, in defiance of United Nations resolutions that prohibit Pyongyang from pursuing nuclear and missile programs.