Moon slammed for doing a U-turn on Thaad

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Moon slammed for doing a U-turn on Thaad

Facing growing protests from the opposition over a tacit admission that the deployment of a U.S.-made antimissile defense system was inevitable, presidential frontrunner Moon Jae-in reiterated his position Monday that the matter should be dealt with by the incoming administration and put up for a parliamentary vote.

In what was seen as a departure from his objection to the deployment of what is known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang, by the end of this year, Moon said Friday it would not be easy to backpedal on a bilateral agreement reached with Washington last July, a decision that has backfired with Beijing retaliating economically against Seoul. Moon’s remark last Friday was seen as a flip-flop on the issue to expand his support among conservatives, many of whom are security-conscious and support the controversial deployment.

Facing accusations from people in his own party who are against Thaad, Moon reiterated his stance during an interview with OhMyNews on Monday. He said the issue of the Thaad system should be dealt with by the next administration and put up for a parliamentary vote as securing the installation site will cost the government at least 100 billion won ($84.5 million).

But the former human rights lawyer said he has yet to decide whether the country should deploy the U.S. system or not - a delicate balancing act to satisfy both liberals who oppose the system and conservatives who want it.

Upset by Seoul’s decision on Thaad, which Beijing sees as a ruse by Washington to look into its airspace using Thaad’s powerful X-band radar, Beijing has been reducing the number of Chinese tourists coming to Korea and banning imports of some Korean cosmetics. It is also limiting the airing of Korean television shows and unofficially blacklisting Korean entertainment figures from working. The latest anti-Seoul measure involves tightened visa application requirements for South Koreans in which Beijing bans the use of identification pictures in which applicants wear spectacles.

While he did not say whether he approved or disapproved of the Thaad deployment, Moon did question its defense abilities in an apparent reference to its limited range. The system would not protect the highly populated Seoul area. Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung, nicknamed Korea’s Donald Trump for his straightforward speaking manner, demanded Moon explain his change of position on Thaad.

“The Thaad deployment only serves the U.S. interests while contributing virtually nothing to our national security and only damaging our economy (from China’s protest),” said Lee in a Facebook post on Monday. “Moon needs to explain why he shifted his stance from objection to a tacit approval.”

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, another presidential hopeful, joined in Lee’s criticism of Moon, asking, “How can a leader who bows down every time when dealing with Washington protect the national interest?” in a Facebook post Monday.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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