The US Forces Korea (USFK) on Tuesday said the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system, which was deployed last week in South Korea, is “operational”. Xinhua news agency quoted USFK spokesperson Rob Manning as saying that the “THAAD system is operational” and has the ability to “intercept missiles” from North Korea and “defend” the South. On April 26, about 20 US trucks and trailers carried part of THAAD elements, including radar, to a golf course at Soseong-ri village in South Gyeongsang province. The golf course was designated as the THAAD site.
The installed elements include two mobile launchers, an AN/TPY-2 radar and other equipment. A THAAD battery is composed of six mobile launchers, 48 interceptors, the radar and the fire and control unit. The missile system has been strongly opposed by regional nations such as China and Russia as it breaks strategic balance in the region.
Following the unexpected deployment, protests were staged by the general public, residents, and politicians across South Korea. Residents and peace activists, who had been on the guard right beside the entrance road, tussled with police on Sunday to block two US oil tankers attempting to enter the golf course.
Two residents from Seongju and Gimcheon were detained and two injured during the tussle. Gimcheon is a city bordering Seongju county, which directly faces the super microwave-emitting radar.
The protesters on Monday blocked about 30 police buses attempting to pass the entrance road as they saw the higher-than-usual number of the buses as a sign of preparing for another attempt to allow additional THAAD elements be transported to the golf course. The residents and peace activists have continued to hold protest rallies at the Soseong-ri village every day, taking turns in standing sentry.
Three Won Buddhist monks began a hunger strike at the Gwanghwamun square in Seoul, a day after the deployment of part of the THAAD elements. The Won Buddhist holy ground is located near the THAAD site. Many religious figures, including priests, pastors and Buddhist monks, joined the protest rally.