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(2nd LD) Gov't puts off THAAD environmental survey

2017/08/10 14:32

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(ATTN: UPDATES with details from 5th para; ADDS photo, byline)

By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, Aug. 10 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean government on Thursday postponed a formal environmental survey on the advanced U.S. missile defense system deployed in a southern town amid a fierce protest by local residents and activists.

The defense and environment ministries had planned to conduct the joint study of electromagnetic radiation and noise from the THAAD system in Seongju, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

Residents in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, chant a slogan against the deployment of the THAAD system in their town on Aug. 10, 2017. (Yonhap) Residents in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, chant a slogan against the deployment of the THAAD system in their town on Aug. 10, 2017. (Yonhap)

Two rocket launchers and a powerful X-band radar are operational at the new U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) base, formerly a private golf course.

A "small-scale" environmental impact assessment has been under way there since December under the South's law.

The planned on-site survey is to verify the results of the evaluation by a local contractor, said the defense ministry

It has requested that the representatives of residents' group there participate in the confirmation process but they have rejected the offer. Instead, they demanded that the government reconsider the THAAD deployment in the area, known for melon farming.

They claim the previous administration of Park Geun-hye pressed forward with the deployment without proper and transparent procedures.

Their collective action to thwart the environmental survey was widely expected.

Related government officials and reporters sought to enter the THAAD site by military helicopter but the plan was aborted due to bad weather.

A delegation of USFK officials could not leave Seoul for Seongju either as their chopper flight was also canceled.

"We have decided to put it off in consideration of various on-site conditions," Army Col. Lee Jin-woo, the ministry's deputy spokesman, said at a press briefing. "We have concluded that additional cooperation is required from local residents and civic groups."

   The government will reschedule the inspection, he added.

Following weeks of inter-agency discussions, the government has already decided to conduct an additional environmental evaluation, a process that will take several more months, before consulting with the USFK on changing the "tentative" THAAD deployment to a permanent basis.

A THAAD interceptor launcher is installed at a U.S. military base in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, in this file photo. (Yonhap) A THAAD interceptor launcher is installed at a U.S. military base in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, in this file photo. (Yonhap)

lcd@yna.co.kr

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