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South Korea: US missile defense system to be fully installed Thursday

South Korea: US missile defense system to be fully installed Thursday
© U.S. Missile Defense Agency

South Korea’s defense ministry says the remaining launchers for a U.S. missile defense system deployed to the country will be installed Thursday, in the wake of North Korea’s latest nuclear test.

In addition to the launchers, the ministry said that construction and related equipment will also be installed, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

The system, known as THAAD, was first deployed to a former golf course in the rural southern area of Seongju in April.

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A THAAD battery has a maximum six truck-mounted launchers that can fire up to 48 interceptor missiles. But it was deployed earlier this year with just two launchers.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who during his presidential campaign vowed to review the deployment, halted the installation of the remaining four launchers in June pending an environmental review.

Residents near the deployment site have voiced concerns that the system’s powerful radars could have adverse health effects, a claim U.S. and South Korean defense officials have said is baseless.

China, fearing the radars could be used to monitor it, is also vehemently opposed to the deployment and has exerted pressure on Seoul to remove the system, including encouraging boycotts of South Korean businesses and entertainment.

U.S. officials have said the system is purely defensive and meant as a counter only to North Korea, not China.

In its Wednesday statement, the South Korean defense ministry described the deployment of the four remaining launchers as “provisional” pending more environmental review.

"There is no change in the government's position to make the final decision on whether the THAAD system will be deployed (in South Korea) after carrying out the general environmental impact assessment of the entire site thoroughly and fairly," the ministry said in a statement, according to Yonhap.

On Sunday, North Korea carried out its sixth nuclear test — its most powerful to date — claiming it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb that can be mounted onto an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The test drew widespread international condemnation, including from allies of North Korea such as China and Russia.

South Korea’s defense ministry had said Monday the remaining THAAD launchers would be installed quickly to respond to “North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threats.”