The US Terminal-High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system will be installed in South Korea no sooner than June, Seoul has announced.
Yonhap news agency, citing the South Korean Defense Ministry, said on Sunday that Seoul was set to finalize the process of land acquisition for the American advanced missile system this week so that THAAD could be deployed by late June at the earliest.
The media outlet added that the Defense Ministry was eyeing for the deployment a golf course owned by the retail giant, Lotte Group, in North Gyeongsang Province in South Korea.
The environmental impact of such a move is currently being assessed, according to Yonhap.
With a range of some 200 kilometers, the THAAD system is designed to intercept short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.
Sources said the exact number of launchers remained uncertain; however, between four to nine truck-mounted launchers, each with eight interceptors, could be deployed.
Seoul and Washington reached an agreement over the THAAD’s deployment in July last year and planned to take over the golf course in January, but the move was delayed due to strong objections by China.
The Lotte Group, which owns the land, is currently under scrutiny over suspicions that Beijing is deliberately trying to discourage the group from handing over its course for the THAAD deployment.
South Korea and the US claim that the purpose of the deployment is to counter perceived missile threats from North Korea.
North Korea and China, meanwhile, believe the THAAD deployment is meant to expand US hegemony. They also believe that the deployment of the US missile system on the Korean Peninsula would destabilize the region’s security by upsetting the military status quo.
Pyongyang, already under a raft of sanctions for its missile and nuclear programs, says it is developing arms as deterrence against the United States. It says it will not abandon the missile and nuclear programs unless the US ends its hostility toward Pyongyang.
On February 13, South Korea’s Defense Ministry announced that its northern neighbor had launched a new missile test near the western city of Kusong, adding that the missile had flown 500 kilometers eastwards before falling into the Sea of Japan.