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(LEAD) THAAD site acquisition may be delayed for administrative reasons

All News 16:03 January 16, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS reasons behind Lotte's hesitation in paras 5-7)

SEOUL, Jan. 16 (Yonhap) -- The military's acquisition of a site from Lotte Group for the deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system may be delayed due to administrative reasons involving the retail conglomerate, the defense ministry said Monday.

"The administrative process is underway to secure a golf course from the business group in exchange for a piece of state-owned military land. But the swap deal originally scheduled to be completed by January may be pushed back a bit due to the need to follow a set process by Lotte," Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said in a press briefing.

If the administrative work is completed, Lotte plans to hold a board of directors meeting to sign off on the deal. Under the arrangement, a parcel of military-owned land near Seoul will swapped with the Lotte Skyhill Country Club in the southeastern rural county of Seongju, 296 kilometers south of Seoul, the spokesman said.

The defense ministry and Lotte have jointly conducted an appraisal of the value of the two sites to be exchanged. The results will be available in the coming weeks through consultations with the country's fifth-largest conglomerate, he said.

The ministry had planned to release the results to the National Assembly and media on Tuesday. But it delayed the announcement as Lotte balked at the plan.

Lotte appears to be concerned about impact on its tourism and cosmetics businesses as China steps up its restriction on cultural and economic exchanges with South Korea in protest of the planned deployment of the anti-missile system known as THAAD.

Seoul and Washington agreed in July last year to deploy the missile shield here in 2017 to counter growing threats from North Korea. China has expressed its opposition on concerns that the deployment could hurt its strategic interests.

This bird's-eye view shows the Lotte Skyhill Country Club owned by Lotte Group in the southeastern rural county of Seongju, 405 km south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

The ministry has been in talks with Lotte since early October after selecting the golf club as the final site for THAAD a month earlier, instead of the controversial Seongsan anti-aircraft missile base in the same county.

The ministry plans to deliver the golf course to U.S. Forces Korea following the swap deal under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between Seoul and Washington. The construction planning and evaluation of the THAAD battery's environmental impact will then be carried out.

The anti-missile system is widely expected to be delivered to South Korea within the year.

In a seminar held in early November last year, USFK Commander Gen. Vincent K. Brooks said, "You're gonna see the deployment of a THAAD battery. This is an alliance decision. It will come in the next eight to 10 months."


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