South Korean President Moon Jae-in suspends senior official over US missile system report

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (Photo by AFP)
South Korea’s newly-elected President Moon Jae-in has suspended a senior defense official for deliberately failing to report the “unauthorized” US deployment of additional missile launchers in the country.
Moon’s office announced the suspension of Deputy Minister for Defense Policy Wee Seung Ho on Monday after an investigation found that the official had ordered the ministry not to write clearly about the four additional launchers of the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in policy reports.
In a televised news conference, presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan quoted the deputy minister as saying that he withheld the information because the South Korean and US military chiefs had decided not to publicize the four launchers' arrivals.
Denouncing Wee’s action as “something that we cannot tolerate,” Yoon said the official had planned to verbally report about the four launchers but failed to do so.
Last week, Moon expressed “shock” after hearing about the existence of the additional launchers and directed his senior secretary for civil affairs and the head of National Security Office “to find the truth behind the unauthorized entry of the four rocket launchers.”
A THAAD battery is capable of firing up to 48 interceptor missiles and consists of six truck-mounted launchers, fire control and communication equipment as well as a powerful X-band radar.
Seoul agreed last year to install the US-built missile system as deterrence against potential threats from North Korea. Two missile launchers were already deployed in South Korea’s southern county of Seongju, and the existence of four more had been widely suspected but never declared.
A file photo of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system
The two launchers had arrived in South Korea before Moon took office on May 10 and are currently stored at a US military base in the country.
The installation was agreed by the government of Moon’s predecessor Park ­Geun-hye, who was impeached and ousted over a corruption scandal.
During his election campaign prior to the May 9 election, Moon had urged a parliamentary review of the controversial deployment.
North Korea has strongly denounced the deployment. Russia and China have, too, expressed deep concern over the controversial deployment of the American missile system on the Korean Peninsula.
Chinese officials argue that the US system would interfere with their radars and could pose a threat to Chinese security. Moscow has also warned that the deployment would only fuel tensions in the region.
Moon, meanwhile, reportedly intends to put the deployment on hold, saying that it should be discussed and approved by lawmakers before being fully ruled out.
The US maintains nearly 29,000 military servicemen stationed in South Korea, claiming they act as deterrence against potential aggression from North Korea.
The North, under an array of sanctions for its missile and nuclear programs, however, says it is developing arms as deterrence against the US threat. North Korea has also said it would not abandon its missile and nuclear programs unless the US ended its hostility toward Pyongyang.

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