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(EDITORIAL from Korea Herald on July 21)

All News 07:14 July 21, 2016

Internal conflict
Seoul should sever groundless THAAD rumors

Pyongyang has test-fired three ballistic missiles in an apparent protest against the Seoul's decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in the southern county of Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province.

Like military officials' interpretation, the North's missile launches are in line with its earlier threats. Last week, it warned of a "physical counteraction" after South Korea and the U.S. announced the THAAD deployment, scheduled for 2017, to better deal with evolving nuclear and missile provocations.

The Defense Ministry said the range of the missiles launched on Tuesday was enough to reach the entire South Korean territory.

The U.S. Pentagon criticized the communist country's continued missile tests, saying that they were a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions explicitly banning its launches using ballistic missile technology. Japan said the launches could ruin the peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific.

Earlier this month, the North test-fired an SLBM that followed in the footsteps of six intermediate-range Musudan missile tests carried out between April and June.

Aside from its armed threat, the government should be alert to Pyongyang's attempts to fan disaccord among South Korean citizens in exploitation of the THAAD decision.

The tough backlash from Seongju residents and a large portion of opponents of the U.S.-led anti-missile system is providing the North with a decent opportunity to create seriously divided sentiment among South Koreans.

Further, an intense debate is taking place at the National Assembly over the THAAD, as the rival parties and the government relayed polarized views on the plan's potential domestic, military and diplomatic impact.

Citing North Korea's test-firing of three missiles, the administration and the ruling Saenuri Party stressed the need for the system to safeguard the South from evolving nuclear and missile threats from across the border.

Opposition lawmakers, in contrast, focused on the government's one-sided announcement of Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, as the battery's location without any consultations with residents there, while displaying concerns about possible diplomatic consequences.

Speculation is snowballing that the equipment may cause cancer, infertility and crop damage, while the government is striving to defuse concerns over the possible health and environmental impact of the system.

To resolve the unfavorable situation, the government should initially expand communications with Seongju to help residents better understand the safety of the defense system. It should also outline comprehensive development plans for the county.

It is regrettable that a variety of theories have been circulating in some parts of the nation rather than discussions on the causes of the Kim Jong-un-regime's provocations.

Should the internal conflict and division continue amid tensions and reach a boiling point, it could be a real threat to national security as the North's dictatorial regime wishes.

Conservatives and progressives should find a compromise in the face of a crisis of national security.

It is urgent for the political leaders to ease angry sentiment among opponents by putting out groundless rumors in close talks with the Defense Ministry. The U.S. should also be cooperative in proving the safety of the THAAD's radiation with research-based excuses.

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