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(LEAD) Acting President Hwang says THAAD should be deployed quickly

All Headlines 18:13 December 21, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 14-16)

SEOUL, Dec. 21 (Yonhap) -- Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said Wednesday that an advanced U.S. anti-missile system has to be deployed to South Korea as soon as possible to counter North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threats.

Hwang made the remarks amid calls from opposition parties to delay the planned deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to the Korean Peninsula given the lack of public consensus and China's vehement opposition to it.

Seoul hopes to install a THAAD battery in the southern county of Seongju, 296 kilometers southeast of Seoul, by May next year.

"For security, (we) have to deploy (THAAD)," he said during a parliamentary interpellation session. "As we cannot wait even for a moment to cope with North Korea's nuclear provocations, we have to do what we can do first."

Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn speaks during a parliamentary interpellation session at the National Assembly on Dec. 21, 2016. (Yonhap)

Hwang, then, made an appeal for parliamentary support for the deployment, underscoring that the North's nuclear provocations this year were "unprecedented." The communist state carried out two nuclear tests in January and September, raising concerns it is making headway towards achieving nuclear-power status.

Pointing to China's objections, Hwang said, "China's thoughts will not change even if (Seoul) postpones the deployment by two to three years."

China has strenuously opposed the deployment of the missile defense asset, saying its long-range radar system could target it and undermine its security interests. In apparent retaliation against the deployment plan, Beijing is suspected of carrying out tax probes and sanitary checks on South Korean businesses operating in the country.

"Chinese authorities have never publicly warned of any retaliation with regards to the THAAD issue, but they have taken a set of steps that seem to be apparent responses (to the deployment plan)," he said. "We are making efforts to cope with such measures."

During the same session, Hwang dismissed claims of his complicity in the alleged corruption scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her longtime friend, though he acknowledged his responsibility in failing to properly advise her.

"As you know the meaning of an accomplice, it is wrong (to refer to me as an accomplice)," Hwang said. "Being an accomplice and being responsible (for preventing the scandal) are different matters ... I think it is regrettable that we fail to take all measures to prevent all corruption," he added.

Hwang's remarks came after Rep. Noh Woong-rae of the main opposition Democratic Party asked for his thoughts about street protesters that have accused him of being an accomplice in the scandal.

The acting president also touched on the need to update the decades-old Constitution. The issue of a constitutional amendment has kept resurfacing as many politicians believe the current state of affairs is due to too much power being centered on one person.

"With public consensus, we, along with citizens, need to take steps towards the revision, though it is difficult to talk about the timing of the amendment at this stage," he said.

Meanwhile, President Park's attorneys dismissed the allegations that Park had telephoned Choi Kyung-hee, the former head of Ewha Womans University, to lobby her to help Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of her friend Choi Soon-sil at the center of the corruption scandal, get admitted to the university.

"It is totally untrue," the attorneys said in a text message sent to reporters after Rep. Noh made the allegations during the parliamentary session. "The president has never called former Ewha President Choi, nor does she know anything about Chung's admission into the school," they said.


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