Guam radar test fails to calm worries over Thaad

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Guam radar test fails to calm worries over Thaad

The U.S. military revealed its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) battery, located at a base in Guam, to Korean media in an attempt to appease concerns here about the electromagnetic waves emitted by its powerful radar.

But the effort did not dispel all domestic skepticism from lawmakers and the public about the health risks that may be associated with exposure to the electromagnetic waves.

At 10:15 a.m. on Monday, Korean defense reporters checked out the AN/TPY-2 radar located at “Site Armadillo” at the Andersen Air Force Base on the resort island to confirm that the electromagnetic waves emitted from it conformed to domestic and international safety standards.

The Guam battery, aptly nicknamed the “Musudan Mangler,” was established in April 2013 to respond to the growing threats from Pyongyang’s Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which have a range of 3,500 kilometers (2,174 miles).

Seoul and Washington announced its decision to deploy the Thaad system to Korea on July 8 and last week named Seongju County in North Gyeongsang as the location for the missile defense battery.

This has drawn a strong backlash from Seongju residents, who are concerned over its risks to health and agricultural produce. The key concern is over the electromagnetic radiation exposure from the powerful Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance, or AN/TPY-2, radar.

This high-resolution, rapidly deployable X-Band radar is designed to detect, track and identify ballistic missile threats at long distances and at very high altitudes. It is a key component of a Thaad battery, which contains six mobile launchers, 48 interceptor missiles and a fire control and communications unit.

A Korean Air Force official measured the electromagnetic waves 1.6 kilometers away from an activated radar for six minutes and confirmed the peak emission of the radar measured at 0.0007 watts per square meter, while the average emission level was 0.0003.

Both measurements were significantly lower than the domestic and international permissible level of electromagnetic waves emissions in daily life of 10 watts per square meter. The Thaad battery, when it is placed in Seongju, will be located around 1.5 kilometers away from residential areas, according to the Korean military.

They also checked that the noise level of generators in the Thaad system warranted on-site soldiers wearing earplugs but this was no longer was an issue at 500 meters away.

A U.S. military official told reporters that the Thaad system “undergoes strict inspections because of its proximity to people,” saying there was no health or environmental risk factors .

Last Thursday, the South Korean military revealed to media for the first time its Patriot interceptor and missile-detecting Green Pine anti-ballistic radar units, and also allowed reporters to check their electromagnetic wave emission and operation.

Ruling and opposition lawmakers expressed concerns as they held a meeting on the Thaad issue at the National Assembly in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Tuesday to discuss its military effectiveness, how to deal with the backlash from Russia and China and relevant safety concerns.

Rep. Roh Hoe-chan, a three-term lawmaker of the minor opposition Justice Party from South Gyeongsang, said, “If it is true that there is no risk of electromagnetic waves from the radar after 100 meters, it will be better to place the Thaad in Yeouido.”

The Thaad system’s interceptors have a range of 200 kilometers and, if deployed in Seongju, will not cover Seoul. This has also caused criticism.

Rep. Yoon Young-seok, a two-term lawmaker of the ruling Seanuri Party, suggested, “In order to relieve the people of their ambiguous terror… during the installation and operation of the Thaad battery, people should always have access to a monitoring system that can regularly check electromagnetic wave emission rates.”

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, SARAH KIM, JOINT PRESS CORPS [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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