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U.S. commander: THAAD protects 10 mln people in southern Korea

All Headlines 18:26 July 11, 2017

By Lee Chi-dong

PYEONGTAEK, Gyeonggi Province, July 11 (Yonhap) -- The THAAD missile defense system deployed by the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) at an "optimal" site is aimed at defending more than 10 million South Koreans living in the southern part of the peninsula, a top American military commander said Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. Thomas S. Vandal, commander of the Eighth Army, was responding to controversy over the location of the THAAD battery installed in Seongju, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.

The USFK has turned a former golf course there into a new base for a THAAD unit. Two interceptor launchers are in place along with the powerful X-band radar and some other equipment. But four other launchers remain stored at a nearby American military compound due to the ongoing review of the scope of joint environmental impact assessment.

Vandal said the USFK has closely collaborated with South Korea's defense ministry on the selection of the site, instead of deploying it at an existing USFK base like Camp Carroll just north of Daegu.

The allies picked the location that "optimizes the capability because THAAD provides the defense of the entire southern peninsula of the Republic of Korea," the commander told reporters, using the official name for South Korea. "Over 10 million ROK citizens are protected because of the location that was selected that optimizes the capabilities of the THAAD."

This file photo shows Lt. Gen. Thomas S. Vandal (2nd from R), commander of the U.S. Eighth Army, saluting during a Transfer of Authority ceremony held at Camp Casey in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province. (Yonhap)

He added that THAAD also protects key facilities in the southern area including ports in Busan.

Vandal said the two sides took into account "various factors" in selecting the site including environmental concerns and political considerations.

He acknowledged that Camp Humphreys, the USFK's new flagship installation located relatively far away from Seongju, may be a prime target of the North's possible missile attack.

But the USFK will be able to defend the garrison with Patriot missiles, which provide a "point defense."

THAAD, in contrast, is for "area defense," which means the allies would need a lot of Patriot missiles to cover the southern region without it, he pointed out.

Earlier in the day, the Eighth Army held a ceremony to open its new headquarters at Camp Humphreys, ending a 64-year stay at the Yongsan base in Seoul.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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