US begins setting up missile defence system in South Korea
Deployment in S. Korea sparks protests from villagers, criticism from China
SEOUL The US military started moving parts of an anti-missile defence system to a deployment site in South Korea yesterday, triggering protests from villagers and criticism from China, amid tension over North Korea's weapons development.
The earlier-than-expected steps to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system was also denounced by Mr Moon Jae In, the frontrunner in South Korea's presidential election on May 9.
South Korea's defence ministry said elements of Thaad were moved to the deployment site, on what had been a golf course, about 250km south of the capital, Seoul. The battery was expected to be operational by the end of the year, it said.
But China says the system's advanced radar can penetrate deep into its territory and undermine its security, while it will do little to deter the North, and is adamant in its opposition.
"China strongly urges the United States and South Korea to stop actions that worsen regional tensions and harm China's strategic security interests and cancel the deployment of the Thaad system and withdraw the equipment," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a briefing.
"China will resolutely take necessary steps to defend its interests," Mr Geng said.
Footage showed military trailers carrying equipment, including what appeared to be launch canisters, to the site.
Shouting protesters hurled water bottles at the vehicles over lines of police holding them back. More than 10 protesters were injured in clashes with police, Mr Kim Jong Kyung, a leader of villagers opposing the deployment, told Reuters.
He said about 200 protesters rallied overnight and they would keep up their opposition.
He said: "There's still time for THAAD to be actually up and running so we will fight until equipment is withdrawn from the site and ask South Korea's new government to reconsider."
North Korea's nuclear and missile threat is perhaps the most serious security challenge confronting US President Donald Trump.
He has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile. - REUTERS