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Interview: Expert calls THAAD Trojan horse in S. Korea ahead of presidential election

Editor: Wang Lingxiao 丨Xinhua

03-03-2017 20:16 BJT

by Yoo Seungki

SEOUL, March 3 (Xinhua) -- The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) has become a Trojan horse in South Korea as the conservative bloc is seeking to hold a "THAAD" presidential election on the fall in public support, a South Korean expert said Friday.

"(South) Korea's conservative bloc hopes to hold a THAAD presidential race. The more strongly China responds to THAAD, the more attention people (in South Korea) will pay," Cheong Wooksik, director of Peace Network, told Xinhua.

Cheong recently published the book of "Everything about THAAD" to make it widely known among people that South Korea could be the biggest victim of the THAAD deployment on its soil. The author said nothing is better off in terms of THAAD in his country.

Seoul and Washington agreed in July last year to deploy one THAAD battery in southeast South Korea by the end of this year. The process gained speed earlier this week following Lotte's contract to exchange its golf course for military land to host the THADD system.

The signing advanced the deployment date, which South Korean media outlets estimated sometime between May and July. The hurried push for THAAD was aimed to politicize security issues in the run-up to a possible early presidential vote.

The original schedule was to install the U.S. missile defense system by year-end. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), had indicated the THAAD deployment between July and September.

A scandal embroiling South Korean President Park Geun-hye may have changed everything. The deployment date was moved forward as the scandal-hit president is forecast to be permanently removed from office on or before March 13. A presidential election must be held in 60 days if Park is ousted.

Cheong said the conservative bloc may clearly want to focus public attention on security issues such as THAAD during the election period as situations are now extremely disadvantageous to them in terms of support scores.

In South Korea's modern history, the conservative governments had sought to hype up security issues and tensions with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) during the election period as voters tend to grant election victories to them for fear of the manipulated tensions.

THAAD could have been seen by some as a U.S. gift to South Korea, but it could turn into a Trojan horse that will distort the presidential election and destroy relations with China, South Korea's largest trading partner.

Cheong said he can understand why the Chinese government and people were enraged by the THAAD installation in South Korea, but the civic group activist stressed that more South Koreans are increasingly turning bad toward the strong responses in China.

He expressed his worry about the scenario, under which only the bad feeling toward each other remains between South Korean and Chinese people without discussions on the uselessness and the aggressiveness of the U.S. missile defense system.

According to his book, THAAD has a limited capability to protect South Korea from the DPRK's missiles. The DPRK has also enough technology to fire missiles that can avoid the intercepting range of the U.S. anti-missile system.

Ironically, South Korea can become the biggest victim with its THAAD deployment, with which the country initially aimed to deter the DPRK's nuclear and missile threats. Ties between South Korea and China have been strained, as the missile defense networking between South Korea, the United States and Japan could usher in an era of New Cold War in Northeast Asia.

In the end, they would push South Korea further away from improved relations with the DPRK and eventually from peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and the goal of a denuclearized peninsula.

An early presidential election is forecast to be held in May. A candidate from the opposition bloc is likely to win the presidency.

Cheong recommended the next president to resume dialogue with the DPRK while suspending the procedures of the THAAD deployment as intensified negotiations on the DPRK's nuclear program can silence calls for THAAD.

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