June 08, 2017 10:57
The deployment of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery in southwestern Korea has been put on hold for up to year amid signs that the batteries already put into operation are not working as intended.
Cheong Wa Dae on Wednesday said there is no reason to send back the two batteries and X-Band radar that have already been set up, but the remaining four must wait until an environmental study, which the previous administration skipped in its hurry to push the deployment through.
A Cheong Wa Dae official said this could either take the form of an environmental assessment of the radar's impact, which would take about a month, or a full-scale study, which entails a briefing of local residents and takes around a year.
Asked if the government is deliberately putting the brakes on the project, a Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters, "We don't know what will happen as a result."
But another official told the Chosun Ilbo, "If North Korea's missile provocations continue, the THAAD deployment will gain international acceptance, and that could speed up the process."
The North lobbed another volley of land-to-ship missiles into the East Sea on early Thursday in defiance of fresh UN Security Council sanctions.
But fuel supply was apparently halted temporarily on May 21, so the batteries were inoperable when the North test-fired a new mid-range ballistic missile.
The former golf course where the batteries sit has several access roads and power supply, but the USFK has been running generators because of a lack of high-voltage facilities to power the radar.
Now it is unclear when the necessary infrastructure can be set up because the environmental study will put that on hold.
The USFK tried twice to truck in fuel -- on April 30 and May 1 -- but protesters blocked the road. Since then, the fuel has been taken in by choppers, but they can carry only small amounts so the batteries shut down frequently.
The radar is meant to detect an incoming missiles, so the THAAD batteries do not have to be operated around the clock. But military sources said the radar could break down if it is switched off, so it needs to operate regularly.
Another source said, "Generators do not ensure smooth electrical supply and can lead to malfunctions when used for a long time."
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