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(LEAD) Military delays transporting construction materials to THAAD site

All Headlines 15:14 April 12, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with agreement)

SEOUL/SEONGJU, April 12 (Yonhap) --South Korea's defense authorities decided Thursday to wait until this weekend to bring construction materials and equipment into the U.S. missile defense base in the face of local residents' protest.

The military had planned to transport them to the THAAD site, located in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, within the day.

Police clashed with hundreds of activists and residents, trying to clear the way for the trucks. Some protesters were hurt.

But the Ministry of National Defense reached a deal with them to continue talks through the weekend. The government pulled the police out of the area.

Residents near the THAAD missile defense base in Sejongju, North Gyeongsang Province, clash with police on April 12, 2018, protesting against the transport of construction materials and equipment into the area. (Yonhap)

Only a dozen trailers will enter the base to take such heavy equipment as forklifts and bulldozers out of it. Those were used for early-stage construction work a few months ago.

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.

The ministry cited the need to improve their living conditions at the new base.

"Currently, the living conditions of the troops are poor," the ministry's spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo told reporters earlier in the day.

For instance, she added, it's urgent to repair leaky roofs and build sewage treatment facilities.

Police pull out of the vicinity of the THAAD base on April 12, 2018, after the defense ministry struck an agreement with protesters. (Yonhap)

Choi said only the materials and equipment necessary for related works will be bought in.

But some local residents and progressive activists suspected that the military may be seeking to expand helipads and other facilities associated with military operations.

They do not want the THAAD base in Seongju, 300 kilometers south of Seoul, which was once a quiet town known for melon farming.

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 for security, I know that no deal has been reached on the matter," Choi said.

Last year, the U.S. installed six THAAD launchers at the site, along with a powerful X-band radar station and 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.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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