Park asks to end ‘unnecessary’ disputes over missile system

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Park asks to end ‘unnecessary’ disputes over missile system

President Park Geun-hye called for an end to “unnecessary” disputes over the decision to deploy the U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system in Korea while emphasizing the need to assuage people’s safety concerns, during a National Security Council (NSC) meeting on Thursday.

Presiding over a session of the NSC at the Blue House, Park said, “This is the time to halt unnecessary disputes over the Thaad issue.”

She warned that if interested parties continue to clash, the people’s safety may be compromised in the case of war and “the Republic of Korea will cease to exist.”

On Wednesday the Defense Ministry selected Seongju County in North Gyeongsang as the site for the Thaad system following its earlier announcement to deploy a battery to Korea on July 8.

Over the course of four months, Park said Seoul and Washington concentrated on “reviewing the most effective location for defense against North Korea’s ballistic missiles, as well as one where it will guarantee the health and safety of the residents of the region and have no effect on the surrounding environment.”

Nonetheless, several hundreds of Seongju residents have protested the decision.

Protesters of the Thaad system have for months expressed concern over health and safety risks related to electromagnetic radiation exposure from its Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance, or AN/TPY-2, radar.

The Ministry of National Defense, citing U.S. assessment reports, said the safety distance away from the radar is a radius of 100 meters (328 feet), while some analysts say it is as far as 3.6 kilometers. Park said the radar will be placed 400 meters above the village, and will be shot 5 degrees upward, so the electromagnetic waves will be emitted more than 700 meters above the village.

“Thus, there is nothing for the region to be concerned about, and rather, it is such a safe region so it will be strange to be concerned over this,” said Park, adding it is important to explain to residents that there would be no risk to their health nor their produce.

She also addressed concerns that the system’s interceptors, which have a range of 200 kilometers and can protect up to two-thirds of the country, will not cover Seoul.

Patriot surface-to-air missiles will be deployed to the metropolitan region to counter North Korea’s ballistic missiles, namely Scuds, which are the biggest threat to the capital because they are deployed generally just 100 to 200 kilometers north.

“Short-range ballistic missiles that may attack this area fly at a low altitude over a short period of time, so rather than Thaad, Patriot [surface-to-air] missiles are the most appropriate countermeasure,” she emphasized.

The Defense Ministry has said that the Patriot Advanced Capability-2, or PAC-2, interceptors are being replaced with the more advanced PAC-3 missiles.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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