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(2nd LD) Park defends THAAD deployment plan again

All News 13:31 July 21, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 7-11, 15)
By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, July 21 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye on Thursday defended the recent decision by Seoul and Washington to deploy an advanced U.S. antimissile system here, stressing she won't bow to "criticism and resistance" to protect the nation.

Presiding over a session of the National Security Council, Park vowed to devise "all necessary measures" to protect the nation from North Korea's persistent military threats, ordering her government to be fully ready to "strongly retaliate" if provoked.

The NSC meeting was convened two days after Pyongyang launched three ballistic missiles in an apparent protest against the allies' decision to deploy a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery to South Korea's southern county of Seongju.

"The government has made the decision to deploy THAAD as it judged that the deployment was the best way to protect the nation and the people from North Korea's threats," Park said, pointing out that there are continuing calls from some politicians and citizens to scrap the plan.

"If there is any other way -- other than the deployment of THAAD -- to protect our people from North Korea's possible missile attacks, (those against THAAD should) make a proposal," the commander-in-chief added.

Since Seoul and Washington announced the plan earlier this month, there has been considerable debate between proponents and opponents on the issue.

Seongju residents, in particular, oppose the decision, berating the government for making the deployment plan without going through a fair and transparent process of soliciting their views. Many are concerned over rumors that the THAAD radar system could cause cancer and infertility, and hurt their agricultural crops.

"I have recently been receiving much criticism and resistance," Park said. "But should the president waver in this situation, the country would become unstable," the president said.

Some observers said that her mention of criticism could also be related to the disturbing allegations facing Woo Byung-woo, her senior secretary for civil affairs.

Local media outlets have raised the allegations of murky ties between Woo and two businessmen who have been in high-profile corruption scandals.

Woo has denied all the allegations, calling them "false and fictitious."

Defending the deployment decision as a self-defense measure, Park also criticized Pyongyang for seeking to sow discord in South Korea by "distorting and denouncing the decision and inciting antigovernment rallies" here.

She also warned against "politicking" over the THAAD issue.

"If we become divided over the inevitable choice to protect the nation and people's lives, and there is further confusion, we could wind up going in the direction that North Korea may want," she said.

"It is important to ensure that 'impure' forces do not engage in all these issues, and we should thoroughly sort them out," she added.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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