The US military has moved elements of the THAAD anti-missile complex to its deployment site in South Korea, causing anger and discontent among the locals, some of whom reportedly clashed with police guarding the convoy.
Residents of Seongju county in South Korea clashed with police after US personnel moved the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system onto a golf course in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province.
Clashes with local villagers, who have been protesting against THAAD deployment for months, erupted when six trailers carrying the radar and other hardware equipment for the American missile defense system entered the installation site at the golf course in South Korea early Wednesday, Yonhap reports.
Scuffles erupted when police tried to stop some 200 residents at the entrance to the golf course. Police had to mobilize additional forces to control some 8,000 people in the area and the traffic on the 905 provincial roads leading to the Seongju Golf Course.
Local activists have been very vocal about the deployment of the US system, saying the presence of THAAD would make them a prime target for Pyongyang and Beijing. The protesters also said the system poses health and environmental problems.
As police tried to control the crowd, the US military moved all of the car-mounted mobile launchers, radars, interceptor missiles, and combat control stations that have arrived in South Korea in March.
In March, the US military announced that the “first elements” of the THAAD system had arrived in South Korea.
“We know that the two launchers kept in the US Army unit of Wakgok-gun, Chilgok-gun are surely deployed,” a South Korean official told Yonhap on Wednesday morning. “We know that radar, interceptors, generators, coolers, etc., other than mobile launchers, are moved from Pusan to trailers.”
Last July, Seoul and Washington agreed to install the THAAD system in the southeastern town of Seongju as a “necessary measure” to thwart North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
While South Koreans remain split over the THAAD issue, the US weapon’s system deployment prompted a strong backlash from regional players, particularly from China.
Beijing has repeatedly spoken out against THAAD over fears that it will undermine its own deterrence capabilities, and previously urged Seoul and Washington to reconsider their plans.
Russia has also voiced concern over the effectiveness of THAAD’s deployment in South Korea, urging those involved to consider the inevitable escalation of tensions it will cause.