Seoul to wrap up land deal for Thaad this weekSouth Korea is expected to conclude the land acquisition for the U.S. advanced missile defense system this week with actual deployment to be completed by late June at the earliest, the military said Sunday.
The defense ministry said administrative measures to take over the Lotte Skyhill Country Club in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang, owned by local retail giant Lotte Group will be completed soon.
It said plans are already under way to start environmental impact evaluations on the site located 296 kilometers (184 miles) south of Seoul. An environmental impact evaluation is part of the review process for the building of a military site.
Seoul and Washington agreed in July 2016 to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) in the country to counter evolving missile and nuclear threats from North Korea. The government inked a deal in November to give Lotte state-owned land in Namyangju, just east of Seoul, in exchange for the golf course.
Sources said that the Thaad unit to be deployed in Korea will have between four to nine truck-mounted launchers, each with eight interceptors, although the exact numbers have yet to be released. The battery will have the powerful “X-band” AN/TPY-2 radar that can detect incoming missiles at great distances.
Last year Pyongyang detonated two nuclear devices and test-fired 24 ballistic missiles and long-range rockets totally ignoring repeated warnings by the United Nations. Such provocations have fueled the need to station Thaad on South Korean soil.
Originally Seoul wanted to ink the deal to take over the golf course in January, but this was pushed back due to strong objections by China that had put pressure on Lotte. Beijing has claimed Thaad poses serious security challenges, and has been pressuring Korea to reconsider.
Despite this delay, the ministry said Seoul will speed up the Thaad deployment plan that will involve handing over the land to the U.S. military in accordance with the Korea-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement.
“If the transfer and the design and development take place at the same time, the process can be completed without too much delay,” a source said. “Because of the unexpected delay, things will be sped up.”
Korea pointed out that the golf course already has all the necessary infrastructure for a military installation like electricity, water and roads.
On the other hand, some experts here said the U.S. side is known to have stringent rules in regards to its military facilities, which could take up time.
Last year the United States Forces Korea commander said Thaad could be deployed between August and October of 2017.