SEOUL/SEONGJU, April 12 (Yonhap) -- Police clashed Thursday with protesters and residents near the U.S. missile defense base in a southern rural town, as the military tried to carry in construction materials and equipment. Some protesters were hurt.
The Ministry of National Defense stressed it's necessary to improve the living conditions of South Korean and American troops at the THAAD base in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province.
More than 400 soldiers of the allies are stationed at the former golf course to operate the system, formally called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense.
"Currently, the living conditions of the troops are poor," the ministry's spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo said at a press briefing. "Only the things meant to improve them will be brought into the base."
For instance, she added, it's urgent to repair leaky roofs and build sewage treatment facilities.
Hundreds of protesters were blocking the road to the gate of the base, suspicious of the military's attempts. They do not want a U.S. military base in Seongju, 300 kilometers south of Seoul, which was once a quiet town known for melon farming.
They suspect that the defense authorities are seeking to expand helipads and other facilities associated with military operation.
The military turned down a request by the protesters' group to allow a representative to monitor the on-site delivery of the materials and equipment.
"As the U.S. military has not permitted it out of concern about security program, I know that no deal has been reached on the matter," Choi said, as police began to clear the way for a convoy of trucks to enter the base.
Last year, the U.S. installed a total of six THAAD launchers at the site, along with a powerful X-band radar station, as well as a fire control and communications unit, in a bid to counter North Korea's missile and nuclear threats. The THAAD battery was immediately put in operation.
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