Equipment delivered to Thaad base as protests continue

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In this photo taken by a local civic group, vehicles and equipment enter the Terminal High Altitude Area (Thaad) defense base in Seongju, North Gyeongsang, under heavy police protection on Sunday morning. [YONHAP]

The Korean and US military delivered equipment to the US High Altitude Area Defense Unit (Thaad) in Seongju, North Gyeongsang, early Sunday as the government moves to ensure continued access to the base and prepare for the system to be properly operational despite local opposition. .

United States Forces of Korea (USFK) and Korean military equipment was delivered to the Seongju base around 1:30 a.m., according to the Soseong-ri Situation Room, a local civic group opposed to the deployment of the Thaad system.

Thaad is an American missile defense system designed to shoot down short, medium and medium range ballistic missiles in their reentry phase. The system is deployed to protect US military assets in Korea.

The Sunday delivery of equipment and materials needed for construction work and unit maintenance was the first to take place over a weekend since May 2021, when USFK and the Department of Defense began to send equipment to redevelop the barracks of the troops.

Deliveries of essential supplies for soldiers stationed at the Thaad unit took place two to three times a week until June, when deliveries began to take place every day of the week.

Expeditions to the base are met with opposition from local protesters, who usually try to prevent road access to the base.

The government had pledged to ensure unhindered road access by the end of August, not only to facilitate deliveries but also to ease pressure on police resources.

According to the civic group, about 10 vehicles drove to the base on Sunday, including a bulldozer, a supply vehicle and a pickup truck.

Local residents rushed to the site to protest after hearing the noise of delivery vehicles.

The civic group claimed that the police and Ministry of Defense used the cover of darkness to make a sudden delivery after informing them that no deliveries would be made over the weekend.

The deployment of the system is opposed by people who live nearby and activist groups who argue that the system is a prime target in the event of war. Some also claim that its radar could make people sick.

Thaad uses high-resolution radar designed to detect and track ballistic missile threats over long ranges and at high altitudes. The system’s radar and infrared search technology is used to guide six mobile launchers and 48 interceptor missiles.

The Department of Defense attempted to dispel rumors of alleged adverse health effects from radar in 2016 by demonstrating to reporters that similar radar used by currently deployed Patriot missile systems emits electromagnetic waves well below the limit set by the guidelines of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. .

Although it was installed in 2017, the Thaad system in Seongju is still “temporarily installed” – meaning it is not currently in use – as it has not yet been tested. a formal environmental impact assessment.

Its unclear legal status has hampered the development of the surrounding area – formerly a golf course owned by the Lotte Group – into a proper military base.

US and South Korean military personnel stationed at the site are housed in shipping containers converted into makeshift barracks.

The Ministry of Defense announced on Tuesday that it would begin the assessment and conclude it within nine months.

The ministry also promised to talk to Seongju residents throughout the process.

BY MICHAEL LEE [[email protected]]

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