Tensions mount as gov’t moves to normalize THAAD base operation

SEONGJU, South Korea-- Tensions are mounting around a U.S. THAAD missile defense unit here, one week ahead of the government's deadline for normalizing access to the base despite local residents' opposition.

The Seoul government has pledged to secure unfettered road access to the base in Seongju, around 220 kilometers south of Seoul, by the end of August, as its operation has been hindered by anti-THAAD protesters attempting to block deliveries of goods and equipment to the unit.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system was installed in the southeastern county in 2017 to cope with North Korea's missile threats.

But the battery has not been running at full capacity, with access restricted to the unit due to protesters and a pending environmental impact assessment.

Local residents and activists object to the deployment of the THAAD system due to concerns about possible hazards to human health and the environment.

Since May 2021, the remodeling of barracks at the base has been under way and construction materials, workers and daily necessities have been brought to the base by trucks two to three times a week.

Clashes have often occurred in the area between police and demonstrators occupying the road to block deliveries.

Residents and activists are set to step up protests in response to the government's plan to provide normal overland access to the base by the end of August.

They also plan to hold a joint rally with other organizations in front of the base on Sept. 3, demanding the military halt the construction.

"The plan to normalize the operation of the THAAD base, even though the environmental impact assessment has not yet started, means that the government does not even consider a due legal process," the task force of anti-THAAD residents and activists said.

The local government has yet to form a group to conduct the environmental impact survey, which is necessary for the THAAD unit to operate at full capacity, due to the resistance from the residents.

"There are no residents willing to participate in the assessment body," ," a county official said. "It is difficult for us to persuade the residents, who have been opposed to the base for many years, to join the team."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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