A protest against a U.S. missile defense system is held in New York
Activism against a United States missile defense system deployed in Seongju county, South Korea, since 2017 has been taking place in the county. At the base’s entrance, which used to be the site of a golf course, protesters demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the military installation.
In SOSEONG-RI, South Korea, a group of people gathered to discuss the future of the country. To reach the summit of a small mountain in Seongju county, which is about 135 miles southeast of Seoul, you must take a brief climb. High-rise buildings in Gumi city can be seen to the north. You are standing on a former golf course, complete with an old clubhouse, some shipping containers on the lawn, and six mobile missile launchers with their tubes facing north, toward North Korea.
This system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense or THAAD, was installed by the United States in 2017. The launchers are part of the THAAD system.
Asia’s rising arms race, as represented by the base, is a sign of this. In order to guard against prospective North Korean missiles, which have just recently been capable of reaching any portion of the Korean Peninsula, the system will be deployed.
During its second successful hypersonic missile test, North Korea claimed victory.
According to North Korea, its second hypersonic missile, designed to evade missile defense systems such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), was successfully tested Wednesday.
In contrast, opponents of the defense system claim that it was implemented without going through a proper democratic procedure and without taking their opinions into consideration.
The deployment of THAAD in this area, according to environmentalists and local residents, is illegal, argues Kim Young-jae. Consequently, we strive to be vigilant and aware to any changes that occur within the base.
Located on a former golf course in Seongju county, South Korea, a THAAD missile defense battery (at left) is oriented toward the north. United States and South Korean soldiers have apparently taken up residence in an ancient clubhouse (to the right of the batteries) and shipping containers for the duration of their deployment.
The National Public Radio staff photographer is Anthony Kuhn.
They are looking for indicators that the missile battery and the living quarters for U.S. and South Korean personnel are being renovated in particular, according to the military.
A golf course rather than a military base, the facility has retained its appearance even after five years of operation.
South Korean press reports state that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin addressed with South Korean defense officials how the countries’ soldiers were living in a golf clubhouse with others housed in shipping containers during a visit in March.
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In an effort to prevent building materials from entering the facility, activists have set up a barricade. According to the activist Kim, the United States and South Korea have not been forthcoming regarding the base.
The military has claimed that this is a temporary deployment in order to divert people’ concerns, according to him. Instead, they’ve been taking every measure possible to make it a permanent deployment,” says the source.
A symbol of South Korea’s strategic predicament, the THAAD system is a missile-defense system.
A geopolitical level, THAAD has become synonymous in South Korea with the country’s difficult balancing act between the United States, which serves as its most important ally, and China, which is also its most important trading partner and neighbor. In Beijing, the defense system is highly opposed, with concerns that it may be used to kill Chinese missiles or that its radar could be used to spy on the country.
A cautionary tale about the economic retribution that China meted out on their country when Seoul permitted the United States to deploy THAAD against Beijing’s wishes comes to mind for many South Koreans when they think about THAAD.
Residents of Soseong-ri, a rural hamlet near the THAAD base in Seongju county, South Korea, gather in the town library to read. Park Soo Gyu is a resident of Soseong-ri, a rural village near the THAAD base in Seongju county, South Korea. When asked about the tension between people and authorities over the THAAD missile system, he responds, “This tranquil community is now being devastated,” The term “prison without bars” is used to describe the environment.
The threat of upgrades to THAAD has been a source of concern for the primarily elderly people of Soseong-ri, a rural community of about 70 families near the base.
According to resident Park Soo Gyu, “this peaceful community is now being devastated.” The term “prison without bars” is used to describe the environment.
Approximately a dozen protestors have been charged with criminal mischief after engaging in confrontations with police, according to him.
‘Go Away’ is the message sent by a Korean village to the THAAD missile defense system.
The inhabitants are also concerned about being caught in the crossfire between the United States and possible adversaries in the Middle East.
According to him, “in the event of a conflict between the United States and United States , or between the United States and China, this location will be among the first targets of an attack.” « This small community might be transformed into a battleground in an instant.»
Protesters frequently congregate around the base, chanting slogans and calling for the removal of the missile battery. A billboard near the entrance to the building opposes the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, with the message: “We denounce the Moon Jae-in government for serving the United States’ containment of Chinese expansionism.”
What obligations does Seoul have to Beijing under the THAAD treaty?
Immediately following the deployment of the launchers on the golf course in 2017, Beijing utilized unannounced economic measures to penalize South Korea, forcing Seoul to make a number of pledges. The first was that it would not be installing any more THAAD batteries in the near future. In addition, current South Korean battery systems would not be linked into the wider United States missile defense system.
The entrance to a U.S. and South Korean installation where a missile defense battery is stationed is blocked off by protesters marching in the opposite direction. The words “We denounce the Moon Jae-in government for serving the United States’ containment of China” are printed on a poster created by a local labor union behind them.
Nevertheless, that is precisely what the Pentagon intends to do. As of 2020, the country’s Missile Defense Agency began testing to link the THAAD system to the Patriot, also known as the PAC-3 system.
As Clint Work, a fellow at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington, D.C., explains, “I believe the enhancements will include, first and foremost, the integration of the [THAAD] systems with other current United States assets, which clearly will include the PAC-3s.”
According to the South Korean Defense Ministry, personnel assigned to the THAAD base should have suitable living rooms to ensure their safety and security. According to Ministry officials, the United States is in charge of any future THAAD upgrade.
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A ministry spokesman told reporters in 2020 that “[the United States] has announced a long-term plan [for upgrading THAAD], but it will take time to accomplish it.” It is understood that the system in Seongju will be updated, but we are unable to speculate on the specifics of the upgrade.
According to Work, the objective is to provide the United States and its bases with many levels of security to counter potential threats. As a result, he claims, North Korea’s missile improvements “obviously aim to exploit gaps in the current coverage.”
THAAD system in Alaska might be integrated with other THAAD batteries in Japan and Guam, as well as with a central missile defense control center in Alaska, according to the current state of the research.
Is it possible to reroute the system to China?
Analysts believe it is feasible that THAAD will be repurposed in the future to address a potential threat posed by China.
As Work points out, “at least according to the United States’ current position, the way the radars are situated truly does not allow for too much looking into Chinese territory.” This is not to say that “Changing their position would be simple. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what they were thinking.”
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As Yoon Sukjoon, a retired Korean navy captain, argues that, because THAAD is being incorporated into the United States’ missile defense system, Seoul is no longer restricted by its earlier commitments to Beijing, and Washington is no longer need to equivocate about what THAAD is intended to do.
NPR reports that “within the paradigm of competition with China, the United States will no longer be able to claim that the system must be placed on the peninsula simply for the purpose of deterring North Korea.”
His other point of contention is that the deployment of THAAD might signal the end of Seoul’s strategic ambiguity in its relations with Beijing and the United States.
In Yoon’s words, “THAAD is an important component of the United States’ worldwide anti-China united front.” A strategic instrument for limiting China from one of the closest countries and one of the most reliable allies in the United States, according to a senior administration official.
However, it is not the tone set by the administration of outgoing President Moon, which has refrained from employing any rhetoric about challenging Beijing.
According to conservative and liberal presidential contenders, the outcome of South Korea’s presidential elections in March might determine the country’s future approach to the THAAD missile defense system.