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(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S. pick southern county of Seongju for deploying THAAD

All Headlines 16:34 July 13, 2016

(ATTN: COMBINES separate story moved under slug S Korea-THAAD; UPDATES throughout)

SEOUL, July 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States picked the mountainous southern town of Seongju as the location for deploying a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on Wednesday as the allies are speeding up efforts to put in place the anti-ballistic missile shield to counter North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threats.

"South Korea and the U.S.' joint working group have proposed the Seongju area, North Gyeongsang Province, as the optimal place for the deployment ... and the countries' defense ministers have approved it," the Ministry of National Defense's deputy minister for policy Yoo Jeh-seung said in a press conference.

The placement of the THAAD system in Seongju, 296 kilometers southeast of Seoul, would help "more firmly secure the safety of our people living in two thirds of South Korea's territory while dramatically increasing the capacity to defend key state facilities like nuclear power plants and oil storages as well as the South Korea-U.S. alliance forces," Yoo noted.

In selecting the final location, the joint working group considered military effectiveness and resident safety as top priorities and conducted comparative studies, on-site inspections and simulations, according to the vice minister.

The latest decision came after the allies announced their decision last week to deploy the high-tech defense shield in South Korea at least by the end of 2017.

The mountainous region of Seongju got high marks for its location that can provide protection for key South Korean and U.S. military headquarters including Camp Humphreys, a new U.S. military base to which most of the 28,500 American forces stationed in South Korea will move to by next year.

The town's relatively far location from China, which bitterly opposes the deployment, has also apparently played into the decision.

The county is located beyond the reach of North Korea's long-range multiple launch rocket systems.

As the new defense system will be deployed in the rear area of the country, South Korea's military plans to increase the deployment of its own Patriot medium-altitude missile interceptors in the capital area, Yoo said.

The medium-altitude interceptor system is more effective in countering North Korea's missiles flying shorter distances, thus at a lower altitude, he said.

South Korea and the U.S. first started their negotiations on the deployment in February in a bid to install a multi-layered air defense system against North Korea's emerging missile capabilities.

In early February, North Korea tested its intercontinental ballistic missile before successfully test-launching its sixth Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile last month, which could fly as far as the U.S. territory of Guam.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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