SKorean anti-missile system forced onto fairway

Golf course selected as new South Korean site for contentious American missile defense system after local protests

SKorean anti-missile system forced onto fairway

World Bulletin / News Desk

South Korea has moved its planned site for an American anti-missile system to prime land currently occupied by a country club and golf course, as Seoul’s defense ministry revealed its “final” choice Friday.

The South picked a location in rural Seongju County for the deployment back in July -- but the decision was met with strong protests by residents nearly 300 kilometers (186 miles) southeast of Seoul.

While the government dismissed their environmental and health concerns as unfounded, it agreed to consider alternative options for the system known as THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense).

The chosen golf course is still close to Seongju but is nearly 700 meters above sea level and further from residents.

“We have conducted a simulation-based evaluation on three alternative sites in Seongju. The test results showed the Lotte Skyhill Country Club is the most optimal site for THAAD,” a defense ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying by South Korean news agency Yonhap.

Still, the system has already created new protests among those living in neighboring Gimcheon, as they claim its powerful radar will be pointing in their direction.

Another potential hurdle could be buying the golf course, which is owned by Lotte Group and could cost in the vicinity of $100 million -- that budget will need parliamentary approval from a National Assembly dominated by opposition lawmakers in the wake of this year’s surprise general election result.

Moreover, North Korea has vowed to make THAAD a target as it continues to develop ballistic missiles, and China reiterated its opposition to the anti-missile system this week after the United States vowed to deploy a battery in the South “as soon as possible”.

Realistically, that means by the end of next year based on a previous South Korean-U.S. agreement, with the allies strengthening their joint defensive posture since the North’s fifth ever nuclear test earlier this month.

The South’s President Park Geun-hye described the alliance Friday as the best way to deal with Pyongyang’s “fanaticism” -- she also likened the North Korean threat to “a dagger to our throats”.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Eylül 2016, 11:33