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(LEAD) Gov’t says no change in site for U.S. anti-missile system

All News 22:43 July 23, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with protest rally near U.S. Embassy; ADDS background)

SEOUL, July 23 (Yonhap) -- The Defense Ministry on Saturday ruled out any change in the site for deploying an advanced U.S. anti-missile system amid no signs of progress in ending the standoff with angry residents near the site.

Residents in the country’s southeastern county of Seongju began protesting after South Korea and U.S. military officials selected an anti-aircraft missile base in the rural area for the site for the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

Still, the government has no plans to consider other areas for the site of the THAAD battery, said a Defense Ministry official.

His comments came as some people have raised a remote mountain in the county as an alternative choice for the deployment.

The Air Force anti-aircraft missile base is just 1.5 kilometers away from populated areas in Seongju, which is about 220 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

Local residents have balked at potential health concerns related to the electromagnetic waves emanating from the THAAD's X-band radar, which they fear could cause cancer and infertility.

But they have recently expressed anger at the fact that the deployment decision was made "unilaterally" without any consultations with them in advance.

Also Saturday, a local resident who speaks for his community regarding the THAAD battery, is said to have rejected an offer by Vice Defense Minister Hwang In-moo to have dialogue in the latest sign of anger toward the government.

Hwang came to Seongju on Friday to try to set up a dialogue with the local residents. He plans to return to Seoul on Sunday.

The local residents say there is no need for dialogue with the government unless the government retracts the decision to deploy the THAAD battery in the county.

Separately, about 80 college students held a protest rally against the U.S. anti-missile system near the U.S. Embassy in central Seoul. One of the students was detained for questioning over alleged violence during a clash between students and police.

The students called on the government to retract its decision, claiming that the deployment of the THAAD battery could speed up an arms race in the region and heighten the threat of a war.

China and Russia have repeatedly expressed opposition against the U.S. anti-missile system out of concerns that the deployment could hurt their strategic security interests.

Seoul and Washington have dismissed such concerns, saying the U.S. missile shield is defensive in nature and focuses on North Korea's missile activities.

THAAD is primarily meant to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles using a hit-to-kill system.


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