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(2nd LD) Special probe confirms 'intentional' omission of report on THAAD launchers

All Headlines 16:54 June 05, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with additional remarks, more details in paras 9-12)

SEOUL, June 5 (Yonhap) -- A special probe into an alleged omission of a report on a U.S. missile defense system here has confirmed that the omission had been intentional, partly aimed at keeping the U.S. program free from local environmental requirements, the presidential office said Monday.

The presidential office said Wee Seung-ho, deputy defense minister for policy, had ordered the part about four THAAD launchers deleted from the ministry's initial report to the presidential office and its de facto power transition team, the State Affairs Planning Advisory Committee.

Wee has apparently admitted to giving such an order, citing an agreement with the United States to keep the details of the THAAD program a secret.

Yoon Young-chan, President Moon Jae-in's chief press secretary, said the agreement should have only affected the defense ministry's reports to the media, not those to the president and commander-in-chief.

The probe by the office of the chief presidential secretary for civil affairs came after the presidential office confirmed the previously undisclosed delivery of four rocket launchers to the country under the THAAD missile defense program.

Yoon noted the outcome of the probe may have cleared Defense Minister Han Min-koo and former chief of the National Security Office Kim Kwan-jin from suspicion of concealing the delivery.

"So far, nothing has suggested that they may have given such an order," he told a press briefing.

Wee has been relieved of duty for now. He may face punitive measures in the future.

The omission of the report on the four additional THAAD launchers may have been caused by what appeared to be a misjudgment. However, the presidential office said the defense ministry may have sought to keep the whole THAAD issue from due processes and local review.

The presidential office noted the program would have been subject to an all-out environmental impact assessment had the area required and provided by the defense ministry for its deployment been greater than 330,000 square meters.

The defense ministry has agreed to provide a total of 690,000 square meters of land for the THAAD deployment, but in two separate occasions, with the first involving only 320,000 square meters of land, thus subjecting the THAAD program to only a small, informal environmental assessment test, Yoon noted.

"A follow-up investigation will verify who made such a decision and why," he said.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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