- US President Trump is said to be enraged by South Korean President Moon’s decision to suspend the installation of the US missile system THAAD in South Korea.
- Further deployment of THAAD was stopped in early June over irregularities leading to skipping an environmental impact assessment.
- Only two of at least six missile launchers needed for one THAAD battery have been deployed.
- Trump’s anger over the THAAD suspension comes ahead of his first summit meeting with South Korean President Moon.
- Deployment suspension has caused worries in Washington that it might ultimately result in South Korea’s decision against hosting the THAAD missile shield.
- Seoul has promised the environmental impact assessment will not lead to a reversal of the THAAD deployment itself.
US President Donald Trump has been infuriated by South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in’s decision to suspend the further deployment on South Korean soil of the US THAAD missile defense shield designed to shoot down North Korean missiles, according to a report.
In early June, South Korea terminated the ongoing deployment of additional elements of the US missile defense system THAAD over an investigation into the arrival of four US rocket launchers exposing cover-ups at the Defense Ministry in Seoul in order to evade an environmental impact assessment.
At the end of May, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in ordered an investigation into what has been described as the “secret” entry into the country of four US rocket launcher as part of the US missile defense system THAAD.
The four launchers in question were supposed to be added to two launchers already in place, which had been “accounted for” by the South Korean authorities. Each rocket launcher is armed with eight interceptor missiles.
US troops in South Korea began the the installation the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, formerly known as Theater High Altitude Area Defense) a day after the North Korean regime celebrated the 85th anniversary since the founding of its military with massive live-fire drills with conventional weapons.
The THAAD uses hit-to-kill technology in which kinetic energy destroys incoming warhead. It can intercept short and medium-range ballistic missiles in the terminal phase of their flight, up to an altitude of 150 km, and has a range of 200 km.
The missile defense system has previously been deployed in Guam and Hawaii as a measure against potential attacks from North Korea.
Ongoing activity and a large number of people have been spotted at North Korea’s nuclear test site, the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility, amid lingering concerns that the regime of leader Kim Jong-un could carry out its sixth nuclear test.
The issue of South Korea’s suspension of the THAAD deployment comes against the backdrop of the death of US college student Otto Warmbier shortly after his release from a 17-month captivity by North Korea.
US President Donald Trump demonstrated his fury over South Korea’s decision to delay the full deployment of the THAAD missile defense system pending an environmental assessment, a senior official has revealed, as cited by South Korean news agency Yonhap.
Trump’s rage was demonstrated when he discussed the suspension of the THAAD’s deployment with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis at the White House on June 8, the official told Yonhap on condition of anonymity.
The report raises concerns about the relations between the United States and South Korea ahead of the first summit meetings between Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in and Trump at the White House.
The South Korean President’s decision to suspend the further deployment of the US missile shield has spurred doubts in Washington that the halt might be a precursor to the South ultimately rejecting the THAAD deployment altogether.
However, Seoul has promised the environmental impact assessment in progress will not lead to a reversal of the deployment itself.
On Friday, Moon Chung-in, a foreign affairs scholar serving as a special adviser to President Moon, told reporters in Washington that the environmental review was an unavoidable process that South Korea was supposed to go through if it was a democracy.
He also argued it was wrong to suggest that THAAD was “everything about the Korea-US alliance.”
It is noted that THAAD has been one of the hottest political and security issues in South Korea for years, with the US wanting to deploy the system and China putting up vehement opposition claiming THAAD’s radar can be used to spy against it.
Opposition in South Korea to the deployment grew larger as the public raised questions about decisions made by impeached former President Park Geun-hye, who was ousted from office on corruption charges.
At the end of April 2017, US President Trump dismayed South Korea by demanding that it pay America USD 1 billion for the THAAD missile defense system.
Trump’s demand was rejected by South Korea as it contradicts the deployment agreement under which the US would pay for the missile shield if the latter agreed to host it, and provide land for its deployment.
Even though it was short-lived, Trump’s payment demand did serve to boost domestic opposition against THAAD in South Korea.