New leader orders probe of US missile launchers
Calling it a "very shocking" incident, South Korea's new president yesterday demanded an investigation into why his office wasn't told by defence officials about the arrival of several additional launchers for a contentious US missile defence system meant to cope with North Korea's nuclear threat.
Before taking office on May 10, Moon Jae-in vowed to review the deployment of a system that has infuriated both North Korea and China, which consider its powerful radar a security threat. Many of Moon's supporters don't want the system, which US President Donald Trump suggested Seoul should pay for.
Senior presidential adviser Yoon Young-chan said Moon has discovered that four additional launchers for the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system have arrived in South Korea since the original two launchers were installed in April.
Yoon said senior Defence Ministry officials didn't report the arrival of the additional launchers when they gave Moon's policy advisory committee a briefing last Thursday.
Moon, a liberal, is now working with Cabinet members who were appointed by his conservative predecessor, Park Geun-hye, who was ousted from office in March over a corruption scandal. Moon has nominated some of his own Cabinet members, but they haven't formally taken office. Moon was sworn in as president right after winning a May 9 by-election, and hasn't had the usual two-month transition period.
Yonhap news agency cited an unidentified Defence Ministry official as saying the ministry told Moon's national security director about the four launchers the day after the policy briefing. But Yonhap said the presidential Blue House denied that.
A THAAD battery consists of six truck-mounted launchers that can fire up to 48 interceptor missiles, fire control and communications equipment, and a powerful X-band radar officially known as AN/TPY-2. The THAAD system was installed in the southeastern town of Seongju.