SEOUL – South Korea’s military aims to deploy an advanced U.S. missile defense unit on a golf course, the Yonhap News Agency reported on Friday, after it had to scrap its initial site for the battery in the face of opposition from residents.
Tension on the Korean peninsula has been high this year, beginning with North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January, which was followed by a satellite launch, a string of tests of various missiles, and its fifth and largest nuclear test in September.
In July, South Korea agreed with the United States that a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile unit would be deployed in the Seongju region, southeast of the capital, Seoul, to defend the country.
But residents of the melon-farming area protested over worries about the safety of the system’s powerful radar and the likelihood it would be a target for North Korea, which warned of retaliation, if war broke out.
The plan to deploy the system has also angered China, which worries that the THAAD’s powerful radar would compromise its security.
The new site for the missile battery would be a golf course at the high-end Lotte Skyhill Seongju Country Club, media reported.
The club is owned by the Lotte Group conglomerate and had been considered as an alternative due to its high altitude and accessibility for military vehicles, a defense official told Reuters earlier.
A spokesman for the Lotte Group declined to comment and an official at the country club did not have any immediate comment.
An official at South Korea’s defense ministry could not confirm the report. The ministry was scheduled to brief local officials and parliament on Friday about a new location.
The United States said this week that it would speed up deployment of the THAAD system given the pace of North Korea’s missile tests, and it would be stationed in South Korea “as soon as possible.”
On Thursday, China again warned against the deployment, saying it “means what it says” when it says it will consider countermeasures.
The United States and its ally South Korea have said THAAD does not threaten China’s security or target any country other than North Korea.
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