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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 1)

All News 06:57 June 01, 2017

Sending THAAD home
Truth game to boost Moon's case against US missile interceptor

The question is not who is telling the truth but what effects it will have on the fate of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery here. As things are progressing now, it can't be ruled out that the system may get repacked and sent back to the U.S.

Cheong Wa Dae announced yesterday the early result of an investigation, saying the arrival of four additional launchers in a report by the Ministry of National Defense to the new administration was omitted, and called this an "intentional cover-up."

It is likely that neither Defense Minister Han Min-koo, a leftover from the previous government and warming the bench for his successor, nor anybody else will stand up to what appears to be getting in the way of the President, who has just browbeat the opposition on the appointment of his inaugural prime minister.

The day before, President Moon Jae-in ordered an investigation into how the four additional launchers were "smuggled" and stored by the U.S. prior to their deployment at the Seongju site in North Gyeongsang Province without his approval.

The ministry responded that the report was made to Moon's chief security secretary Chung Eui-yong right after his appointment last week. Cheong Wa Dae has taken the case very seriously and is said to be considering using it to start a major house-cleaning in the military.

To calm the situation, the U.S. government came up with an early assurance that the deployment was proceeding smoothly without glitches.

Already, Seongju residents were up in arms, renewing their opposition to the THAAD deployment in their backyard. Their rationale for their opposition is based on the fear that their town will be the first to be targeted in the event North Korea stages missile attacks to neutralize THAAD, the missile interception system.

While campaigning, President Moon had originally opposed the THAAD deployment and changed his stance close to neutral as a move to appease conservative voters' concerns. Moon has now maintained that the deployment lacked due process such as deliberations at the National Assembly. Moon's Democratic Party of Korea has many members dead set against THAAD.

Moon has inherited the legacy of an independent diplomacy from his mentor, the late President Roh Moo-hyun, to move away from the orbit of the United States, Korea's key security partner.

The latest brouhaha comes at a time when the anti-THAAD movement is gaining strength as U.S. President Donald Trump went against the bilateral agreement and demanded Seoul pay the tab to the tune of $1 billion for the system. Korea also is suffering from the fallout of China's objections that have led to significant economic losses through the reduction of tourists and boycotts of Korean goods.

It remains to be seen whether it will lead to the actual pullout of the U.S. weapons system because it could create a significant crack in the two countries' alliance. Being short of it, it would give Moon the upper hand when he meets an unpredictable Trump for their summit in Washington this month.

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