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(LEAD) S. Korea military stresses missile battery radars pose no health risks

All News 19:01 July 14, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 2, 5; ADDS more info in 11, 13-14, 16-19 paras)
By Choi Kyong-ae

SEOUL, July 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's military on Thursday stressed that electromagnetic waves generated by radars used by the Patriot PAC-2 and other missile systems pose no health risks, as authorities move to calm worries following the decision to deploy an advanced anti-missile system in the country.

In a media event held at a Patriot PAC-2 missile base in southern Seoul, the Ministry of National Defense conducted a test on the radar used on the PAC-2. Reporters were also allowed to check the country's Green Pine radar station in Chungcheong Province that is used as an early warning system for ballistic missiles.

"The military wants to deliver the exact information on the U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense battery and show that electromagnetic waves emanating from radars will not cause health problems for residents in the rural town of Seongju," a ministry official said.

Earlier in the week, Seongju, located 296 kilometers south of Seoul, was selected as the site for the country's first THAAD battery, which can shoot down incoming ballistic missiles from the North during the terminal phase of flight. Like THAAD, the PAC-2 system is used to intercept incoming missiles as they fall towards the ground.

The decision made by Seoul and its close ally Washington triggered strong objections from China that claimed the powerful X-band radar, used by THAAD, could spy on its military activities. But Washington has said the system is purely defensive and only aimed at deterring North Korean threats.

The test carried out to soothe unfounded safety worries in Seongju and across the country over the planned THAAD deployment highlighted the military's safety requirements when operating missile batteries.

The electromagnetic waves measured during the first six minutes after radar beams were activated reached a maximum of 0.2826 watt per square meter and an average of 0.0735 watt per square meter. The results were far lower than 10 watts per square meter which is the maximum permitted under Korean laws, according to the ministry.

"Given the maximum level of electromagnetic waves just 20 meters away from the PAC-2 system that is just 2.8 percent of the max permissible level, neighborhoods located away from the radar and lower from down the mountain (where the PAC-2 unit is based) are utterly unaffected by the electromagnetic waves," the official said.

In the case of the Green Pine radar station, electromagnetic waves, when measured 30 m away from the Israel-made system, registered as a max of 0.2658 watt per square meter and an average of 0.0810 watt per square meter in the first six minutes.

To further alleviate doubts, the radar waves gauged at a point 120 meters away from the PAC-2 antenna dropped to a maximum of 0.0336 watt per square meter and an average of 0.0065 watt per square meter. The Green Pine radar system's strength at 150 meters away fell to 0.0026 watt per square meter, the ministry official pointed out.

As there are no towns near the mountainous area of Seongju, the venue for THAAD, he also predicted no impact from the THAAD radar system.

Others at the demonstration also emphasized that missile battery radars direct their beams into the sky to detect incoming threats so there is even less reason for people on the ground to be worried.

They pointed out that the military sets the minimum safety distance of the Patriot and Green Pine systems at 120 m and 530 m, respectively, but this number is just 100 m for THAAD, a clear indication that the electromagnetic waves of this system pose no added risks for people nearby.

Despite such assurances, some critics have pointed out that the radar beam from THAAD's AN/TPY-2 is much stronger compared to those used on the Patriot system.

Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test in January and the long-range rocket launch the following month offered a strong impetus for Seoul and Washington to reach an agreement on the deployment of THAAD in the South. The two allies said they aim to get the system working by the end of 2017.

"It usually takes more than a year to train soldiers who are assigned to operate THAAD. It also takes time to test the functions of THAAD before it is ready to be used," another defense ministry official said, making clear that time is needed to get the system in operation.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Han Min-koo plans to visit Seongju as early as next week as he promised so he can persuade county residents to accept the government decision on THAAD.

Reflecting the importance placed on alleviating public concerns, the defense ministry said Korean journalists will be in Guam from Sunday through Tuesday to examine the THAAD battery already on the island.

"This will be the first time that the THAAD unit will get media coverage which should help dispel any misunderstandings about the U.S. anti-missile system," a ministry insider said.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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