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S. Korea selects golf course as new site for THAAD

2016/09/30 11:34

SEOUL, Sept. 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has picked a golf course in the southeastern part of the nation as the new site for an advanced American missile defense system Friday to counter growing threats from North Korea, military officials said.

The revised decision comes 2 1/2 months after Seoul and Washington picked the Seongsan anti-aircraft missile base in Seongju, 296 kilometers southeast of Seoul, to host the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system by 2017.

"A meeting to explain the decision to select a new site for THAAD was held this morning at the request of local government officials in Seongju," an official at the Ministry of National Defense said. "Defense Minister Han Min-koo held a meeting with ruling and opposition party leaders to explain the decision."

   The ministry said it will make a briefing on the decision on Friday afternoon as planned.

In July, the two allies announced a decision to deploy a THAAD battery in South Korea to better defend against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.

Pyongyang has raised the stakes this year by conducting two nuclear tests and launching a series of ballistic missiles as the communist regime marches toward its stated goal of developing an atomic weapon that can reach the U.S. mainland.

This undated file image shows an interceptor fired from a THAAD launcher against the background of a golf course in Seongju and local residents protesting the THAAD deployment due to health concerns. (Yonhap) This undated file image shows an interceptor fired from a THAAD launcher against the background of a golf course in Seongju and local residents protesting the THAAD deployment due to health concerns. (Yonhap)

Local residents strongly protested the decision, demanding the site to deploy THAAD be changed due to perceived health problems caused by the powerful THAAD radar.

In response, the military examined three other sites in Seongju -- Mt. Yeomsok in Geumsoo-myeon, Mt. Kkachi in Sooryoon-myeon and the golf course operated by Lotte Group in Chojeon-myeon -- to check if they were suitable for the THAAD battery.

Lotte Skyhill Country Club, 18 kilometers north of the Seongju County center, sits 680 meters above sea level, about 300 m higher than the previously selected anti-aircraft missile base. It's also more isolated from residential areas than the missile base and could alleviate local residents' concerns that THAAD's radar could cause them health problems.

The golf course location, however, could cause problems for the adjacent town of Gimcheon, since the radar would be pointing in the direction of the nearby county. Gimcheon residents already threatened "a full-scale protest" if the golf course were selected.

Another hurdle for the defense officials will be the purchase of the golf course. Business conglomerate Lotte owns the country club, and the price tag could be more than 100 billion won (US$90.6 million). Securing the budget to make the acquisition will require parliamentary approval.

The government applied six principles -- operational effectiveness, resident health concerns, infrastructure, overall safety considerations, construction time and cost, and the required preparation time for installation -- in the selection of the alternative site.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr

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