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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 24)

All News 09:34 June 24, 2017

US should explain
President re-questions accelerated THAAD deployment

President Moon Jae-in wants to know what caused the accelerated deployment of the U.S. missile interceptor Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

The United States should come forward.

"For a reason I don't know, the THAAD deployment was accelerated," President Moon said during an interview with Reuters news agency Thursday. He said only one launcher was due for deployment this year with the remaining five scheduled for 2018. Now, two have been deployed with four in U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) storage.

Moon has obviously been seeking an explanation without success.

Right after his inauguration early May, the presidential office found that four launchers were brought into the country for deployment without its knowledge. Moon called it "shocking."

An investigation was launched, questioning outgoing Defense Minister Han Min-koo and the previous government's top presidential national security chief Kim Kwan-jin. A three-star general who was in charge at the working level was sacked.

The full story behind it has not come out apparently, as Moon talked about the mystery that shrouded the accelerated deployment.

The U.S. has not explained its role. Chung Eui-yong, Moon's national security adviser, traveled to the United States but obviously failed to get their side of the story. Chung said he gained the U.S. "understanding" about Seoul's readjustment on the deployment schedule.

U.S. officially said the deployment was conducted in full consultation with the Korean government. It said it expected the deployment would be implemented as agreed. This issue reached Trump, who had reportedly called in his top aides, leading his government to repeat the same statements. However, the U.S. is eager for deployment as, for one, USFK commander Gen. Vincent Brooks in November spoke publicly about a plan to finish the full battery deployment within eight to nine months.

Two months earlier, Daniel Russel, then assistant secretary of state, stressed the need to advance the deployment, considering the rapidly growing North Korean missile threat.

Reflecting Moon's reluctance, the Seoul government hit the brakes hard, saying the deployment plan needed a proper environmental impact assessment. It said the previous one sacrificed thoroughness for speed. The assessment may take up to one year, making its prompt deployment out of the question.

Now, Moon denied Korea is trying to back out of the deployment or delay it but his latest remark shows he remains puzzled despite the probe. U.S. cooperation is pivotal in letting Seoul know what has caused the "inexplicable acceleration" Moon referred to.

If Moon can't get a full explanation, it is likely the Moon-Trump summit may go in circles over this issue of growing importance with the two leaders distrusting each other. Already, there are signs of a tough summit with the U.S. believing Korea is getting closer to China at the cost of the Korea-U.S. alliance. Korea is feeling piqued by Trump who deals with North Korea exclusively with China.

If trust-building between the two leaders is a top priority for the summit, the U.S. should feel obligated to shed light on Moon's mystery.

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