ROK government battered for forced THAAD deployment

China Military Online
Zhang Tao

By Yao Qilin and Geng Xuepeng

BEIJING, Sept. 10 (ChinaMil) – South Korean residents who were against the THAAD system protested in front of the Cheong Wa Dae on September 8, calling for the government to remove the THAAD system "temporarily" deployed by the US and ROK a day earlier.

Analysts said that the Blue House has been "battered" by the public and the opposition parties for its neglect of public opinions concerning the THAAD deployment. The Moon Jae-in administration faces the serious task of bridging the social rift arising from the THAAD issue and stepping out of its diplomatic dilemma.

THAAD deployment causes doubts

After a whole night of intense conflict with the protestors, the US and ROK militaries transported the remaining four missile launchers of the THAAD system and relevant materials to the American base in Seongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province on the morning of September 7.

To appease the people, ROK president Moon Jae-in made an emergency statement on the night of September 8, claiming that the deployment was a "temporary" arrangement based on the serious and urgent security situation, and the final deployment would be decided after the environment impact assessment was completed.

The Hankyoreh published a commentary saying that the so-called "temporary" deployment was nothing but a "political chicanery" and pretext as the deployment of the THAAD system has in fact been completed.

Some analysts said that although the environment impact assessment to be started soon is said to be rigorous and scientific, most people will consider it a "show" for the purpose of giving THAAD a legitimate position.

Since Moon Jae-in took office four months ago, he has been strongly slated for his frequent change of attitude toward the THAAD deployment.

At first he ordered a thorough investigation of the secret arrival of THAAD launch pad in ROK, but soon afterwards he began to strongly promote the deployment of the system.

The ROK Defense Ministry announced July 28 to carry out the environment impact assessment at the location of deployment and will make the final decision based on the result of the assessment.

But one day later, Moon Jae-in announced that to deal with the missile threat from DPRK, Seoul will "temporarily" deploy the remaining four THAAD launchers, throwing a bomb into public opinions.

Wider divergence

According to the latest poll in ROK, Moon Jae-in's support rate has fallen below 70% for the first time since he came into power. Analysts said that if he cannot bridge the social rift in the country, the support rate may fall further and shake the foundation for his administration.

The Democratic United Party currently in power criticized the decision to deploy the THAAD system multiple times during Park Geun-hye's rule, and most of its supporters are against the deployment. Moon Jae-in's enforced deployment of THAAD regardless of public opinions has in a way pushed him farther away from the people.

At the anti-THAAD protest in front of the Blue House on September 8, representative protestors called Moon Jae-in a traitor of his supports. According to them, Moon Jae-in vowed to review the decision of THAAD deployment during the presidential election and stressed right after he was elected that necessary procedures must be completed before the deployment.

But now he ordered to proceed with the deployment without consulting with the people or the congress, making him no better than his predecessor.

The Justice Party sharply slashed the "temporary" deployment and pointed out that the new government has completely abandoned its three promises about the THAAD deployment - investigating the truth, submitting it to the congress for discussion, and conducting environmental impact assessment. The People’s Party said Moon Jae-in's "temporary" deployment will only worsen the public antagonism.

The conservative parties also criticized Moon Jae-in for going back on his words about THAAD deployment and took this opportunity to slash the Moon Jae-in administration for its unstable security policy.

Diplomatic impasse

Analysts said that after Moon Jae-in took office, ROK's surrounding diplomacy has been complicated and its foreign and security policies have drawn close attention. But from the "strong diplomacy" slogan at first to the recent overwhelming pro-America policy, from advocating the improvement of ROK-DPRK relation through dialogue to the most severe sanction of cutting off DPRK's crude oil supply, Moon Jae-in's foreign and security policies have been as unstable and self-conflicting as his attitude toward THAAD.

The public's dissatisfaction with the foreign and security situation is another main reason for the falling support rate of Moon Jae-in.

Moon Jae-in claimed that the nuclear missile threat from DPRK has kept escalating, which aggravated the security situation in ROK, so deploying the THAAD system is the best measure available for the ROK government at the moment.

But the Kyunghyang Shinmun pointed out in its commentary that deploying the THAAD system cannot help Moon Jae-in solve the nuclear issue, but will be the beginning of more trouble. It was the first major foreign and security decision made by Moon Jae-in after he came into power, but was a wrong decision that will freeze the relation between ROK and China for quite some time.


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