of the US anti-missile system in South Korea is facing a setback after
the new government ordered a full-scale environmental impact probe.
President Moon Jae-in is a vocal critic of the previous government’s
decision to host the THAAD system.
“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,” South Korean Defense
Minister said on Tuesday, as cited by Yonhap News Agency.
The probe may take up to a year and delay the ongoing deployment of the
system, Yonhap says.
The probe is the latest step in the new South Korean government’s review
of the controversial deal signed under the previous administration. 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
One 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.
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, presidential spokesman Cheong Wa Dae told
reporters. Further transfers of land would be under the threshold as
well, shielding the deployment from more rigorous scrutiny, the
Earlier, the presidential office accused the defense ministry of failing
to report to President Moon the secret delivery of four additional THAAD
launchers in addition to the two which were brought into the country
publicly. Wee Seung-ho, deputy defense minister for policy, was relieved
of duty for the omission and may face punitive measures.
The new government in Seoul suspects that the defense ministry was
involved in an effort to make the THAAD deployment appear smaller than
it actually is in the public eye. President Moon, who was elected in May
after the previous government fell in a corruption scandal resulting in
the impeachment of Park Geun-hye, pledged to make the project more
transparent, including subjecting it to parliamentary approval.