South Korea picks new site for US missile defence system

South Korea picks new site for US missile defence system

A private golf course has been chosen as the new site for an advanced US missile defence system to be deployed in South Korea by the end of next year to help cope with North Korean threats, military officials said.

Seoul's Defence Ministry originally announced in July that it had picked an artillery base in the rural farming town of Seongju as the site for Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence, or THAAD.

But Seongju residents fiercely protested against the plan, raising fears over potential health hazards they believe the system's powerful radar might cause.

The golf course, owned by South Korea's Lotte business group, is also within Seongju, but located further from the town's main residential areas.

However, residents of Gimcheon city, which borders the course, are angry at the move which had been the subject of media speculation for weeks.

A Defence Ministry official, who did not want to be named, citing office rules, said ministry officials visited politicians and regional officials in Seongju and North Gyeongsang Province, which governs the town, to explain the decision.

A ministry note provided to politicians described the golf course as ideal because it would require less construction than two other possible sites which were on mountains.

The ministry plans to start talking about buying the course from Lotte, which said in a statement that it will "positively consider" the proposal.

Ministry officials began exploring alternative sites after South Korean President Park Geun-hye in August promised to consider a new location to "lessen the anxiety" of residents in Seongju.

This came weeks after angry protesters pelted Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn with eggs and plastic bottles and blocked his bus for several hours during a visit to Seongju to explain the decision to residents.

US and South Korean officials say they need the missile system to better deal with increasing North Korean military threats. After North Korea conducted its fifth and most powerful nuclear test to date earlier this month, experts raised worries that the country is moving closer toward gaining the ability to put nuclear warheads on a variety of its ballistic missiles.

The plan to deploy THAAD in South Korea has angered not only North Korea but also China, which suspects that the system would allow US radar to better track its missiles. Russia also opposes the deployment.

US and South Korean officials say the THAAD system targets only North Korea and no- one else.

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