China Decides to Move On from Dispute With South Korea Over THAAD Deployment

Via a reader tip, as many people expected the Chinese government has finally decided to move on from their dispute with South Korea over the THAAD deployment:

A diplomatic dispute between South Korea and China officially ended on Tuesday, following months of tense relations and economic retaliation triggered by the deployment of a controversial missile defense system.

In statements issued by both countries’ foreign ministries Tuesday, Seoul and Beijing said they recognized the “great importance” of the relationship between the two neighbors.”
Both sides agreed that strengthening exchanges and cooperation between Korea and China would create harmony of interests in both sides, and agreed to resume exchanges and cooperation in all areas as soon as possible,” the statement said.
Relations deteriorated after South Korea announced in July 2016 that it would deploy the US-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) defense system to defend against North Korean missile threats.  [CNN]
You can read more at the link, but the objections by the Chinese were always hypocritical and largely in my opinion an attempt to create a wedge issue between the ROK and the US.  Considering that President Moon went all in on the THAAD deployment there was no longer any reason to keep up their objections in the hope of creating a wedge issue in the alliance.  It is in China’s long term interest to separate the US from the ROK and this was an opportunity for them to create a wedge issue that ultimately failed.

USFK Says THAAD Battery Deployment Now Fully Complete

The deployment of THAAD to South Korea which the ROK government has called temporary has now been fully completed according to USFK:

This file photo, taken Sept. 12, 2017, shows a launcher of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system being positioned at a U.S. military base in Seongju, 300 kilometers south of Seoul. The U.S. Army, which transported four additional THAAD launchers to the base Sept. 7, has installed them there and is ready to operate them, along with two of the six THAAD launchers previously installed.

The U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said Sunday it has officially set up the unit charged with operating the advanced missile defense system deployed in the country.

A ceremony was held in the southeastern county of Seongju on Thursday to transfer the Delta Battery of the 11th Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Brigade in Fort Bliss, Texas, to the 35th ADA Brigade in South Korea, official sources said.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, which has missile launchers, command and control facilities and a powerful radar, was first deployed in April as part of the Global Response Force amid growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. At the time there were two interceptor launchers stationed in the rural county. Four more were added last month.

In September, South Korea announced that the deployment of a THAAD battery in the county had been completed in a “tentative” step to counter threats from North Korea. The battery has been operational, but the military unit and manpower operating it has not fully been in place.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

President Moon Calls THAAD Deployment In South Korea Temporary

Can someone please define what temporary means?  Is the North Korean missile threat to South Korea just going to magically go away sometime soon to where the THAAD system will no longer be needed?:

South Korean President Moon Jae-in defended the government’s decision to fully deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system here Friday, saying it was an inevitable decision to protect his people from evolving nuclear and missile provocations from North Korea.

The president, however, hinted at possible changes in the future, calling it only a temporary decision.

“While ignoring our government and the international community’s repeated demands and warnings, North Korea staged its sixth nuclear test following a series of ballistic missile launches. And due to these developments, our security situation has become more serious than ever,” the president said in a released statement.

“Therefore, the government reached a decision that it could no longer delay the temporary deployment of THAAD to prevent war on the Korean Peninsula and protect the lives and safety of its people,” he added.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

Picture of the Day: THAAD Roadblock

U.S. Army to deploy 4 more THAAD launchers on Sept. 7

This photo, taken on Sept. 6, 2017, shows farming machines that residents placed to block a road to a village near a U.S. base in Seongju, 296 km southeast of Seoul, where two launchers for an advanced U.S. missile defense system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), are deployed. The residents’ move came amid reports that the U.S. military will deploy four additional THAAD missile interceptor launchers to the base at 2:00 a.m. the next day. (Yonhap)

Dozens Injured After Korean Protesters Removed to Allow Deployment of Additional THAAD Launchers

After all the months of drama in regards to this issue, the THAAD launchers are finally in:

U.S. military vehicle moves as South Korean police officers try to block residents and protesters who oppose to deploy an advanced U.S. missile defense system called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, in Seongju, South Korea, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017.

I guess the next concern from USFK will be whether the road to the THAAD site will remain open or is this a one time police presence to open the road?  If so the helicopter resupplies to the site will have to continue:

Thousands of South Korean police were deployed near the THAAD site, which is in a remote southeastern area of the country, to clear the way for the U.S. convoy carrying the four additional launchers and other equipment on Thursday.

Scuffles broke out when hundreds of protesters tried to block the path to the former golf course that now houses THAAD. Local health and fire officials said dozens of people suffered mostly minor injuries.

The defense ministry said that, despite the protests, the THAAD deployment was completed.

Officials stressed it was a “tentative” measure resulting from the urgent threat posed by North Korea and a decision on maintaining THAAD will be made after a full environmental impact assessment is completed.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.

Protesters Gather to Block Expected Movement of Additional THAAD Launchers to Seongju

It looks like there could be chaos today in in Seongju as the US military tries to move the remaining launchers and equipment on to the THAAD site:

The U.S. military will deploy additional launchers for an advanced missile-defense system Thursday in a remote area of South Korea despite local protests, the defense ministry said.

Seoul said Monday that it had cleared the last administrative hurdle to installing four more launchers soon to complete the deployment of the anti-missile battery known as THAAD, aimed at countering the growing threat from the North.

The plan has met with regular protests in Seongju, the southeastern area where the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system is stationed.

Protesters gathered again Wednesday near the former golf course that is housing THAAD, saying they would try to try to block the entrance with cars and tractors.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.

Picture of the Day: Aerial Resupply of THAAD Site Continues

Four more THAAD launchers all set for deployment

A military helicopter airlifts matrials toward a golf course in Seongju, 296 km southeast of Seoul, where two launchers for an advanced U.S. missile defense system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), are deployed on Sept. 4, 2017. South Korea’s defense ministry announced that U.S. Forces Korea will soon install four more THAAD missile defense launchers at the site. (Yonhap)

ROK Defense Ministry Advocates to Local Residents that THAAD Deployment is Temporary

I think the key word in this article is “temporary”.  What is temporary about the THAAD deployment to South Korea?  Are North Korea’s missile going to magically disappear one day to where South Korea will no longer need the THAAD battery?:

Seongju residents gather on Aug. 30 after receiving letters from the Defense Ministry concerning the proposed deployment of four additional THAAD missile launchers. The sign is calling for those opposed to THAAD missile deployment to come to Soseong-ri, Seongju, North Gyeongsan Province on the day that the launchers are to be installed. (Provided by the Committee Opposed to THAAD Deployment)

Groups opposing the THAAD deployment are up in arms after revelations that Minister of Defense Song Young-moon sent a letter to Seongju and Gimcheon residents asking them for their “understanding” on the antimissile system’s temporary deployment. Groups working to oppose the THAAD deployment reported on Aug. 30 that Ministry of Defense officials, including active colonels and lieutenant colonels in the military, had traveled to the homes of around 20 people on Aug. 23–25 to deliver the letter from Song. The homes included those of the leaders of seven villages in the Seongju and Gimcheon areas, as well as the chairs of senior citizens’ and women’s associations, the groups said.

The letter stated that the temporary THAAD deployment was “unavoidable for a priority response to the North Korean threat.” “A temporary deployment means temporarily installing THAAD in open terrain with minimal preparations based on a small-scale environmental impact assessment, as opposed to completing the deployment after a general environmental impact assessment and the building of a permanently infrastructure,” it explained.  [Hankyoreh]

You can read more at the link.

ROK Government Nearing Completion of Environmental Assessment of Seongju THAAD Site

It will be interesting to see if the protesters allow the additional THAAD equipment on to the site considering the blockade they have been maintaining.  Will the Moon administration be willing to send in police to forcibly remove grandmas and grandpas off of the road?  We are about to find out:

South Korea is poised to complete the installment of a US missile shield next week, officials said Friday, despite unabated controversy over the Moon Jae-in government’s flip-flopping on the timing of the deployment.

The stationing of the remaining four launchers of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system comes as the Environment Ministry wraps up a small-scale environmental review. The equipment will join the already operational two launchers, radar and other assets to form a full-fledged battery.

The move will also coincide with a maiden face-to-face meeting between South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo and US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, set for Wednesday in Washington.

“Currently a small-scale environmental impact assessment is under way, and I can’t say it for certain, but the results are likely to come out around Monday,” a Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters on customary condition of anonymity.

The Ministry of National Defense echoed the view, saying the four launchers and related apparatus will be brought to the site in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, as soon as the survey is finished.  [Korea Herald]

You can read more at the link.

General Vandal Apologizes for Photo Incident During THAAD Deployment to Seongju

My guess would be this apology must be something the ROK government recommended to USFK to do in order to get the protesters to stop blockading the road considering it is happening four months after the fact.  I guess we will see if this will help lead to the end of the blockade:

Lieutenant General Thomas Vandal

Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal, commander of the 8th U.S. Army, apologized Sunday to the people of Seongju over one of his soldiers using a smartphone to film a protest involving physical clashes, smiling as he did so.

The Seongju residents rejected Vandal’s apology, saying it was four months too late.

First, Vandal and his superior officer, U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) commander Gen. Vincent Brooks, should find a better way of dealing with this incident. The protesters should stop using the apology issue for political purposes.

The incident happened in the early hours of April 26 when a convoy of U.S. military vehicles pushed their way through to deliver equipment for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, a U.S. missile interceptor, to the site in the vicinity. Twelve people were injured. A GI in one vehicle was caught filming the scene with a snigger on his face.

For that, Vandal went down to Seongju and bowed at a press conference after the residents refused to meet him. He said the soldier’s behavior was inappropriate and that he was fresh on his Korean tour and had not finished his orientation program.

The residents questioned Vandal’s sincerity because his apology came four months after the incident, despite repeated demands. The residents claimed they felt ignored by Vandal.

Vandal should have apologized earlier. The USFK is often belated in dealing with accidents in relation to Koreans. One example is the 2002 Yangju Highway Incident where a U.S. military vehicle crushed two Korean girls to death. Then, the USFK dragged its feet, letting the incident grow out of proportion in a major PR fiasco.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but the Korea Times in regards to the 2002 Yangju Highway Incident do not know what they are talking about.  Both the 8th Army commander and the 2nd Infantry Division commander apologized after the accident happened.  2ID even paid an initial $1,000 payment to the families to assist with funeral expenses.  Then 2ID soldiers held a candlelight vigil and fundraising drive in honor of the two girls that were tragically killed.  The fundraiser raised $22,000 for the families.

2ID soldiers attend candle light vigil in memory of Shim Mi-son and Shin Hyo-sun.

Finally the USFK commander put the soldiers on court martial strictly for PR purposes despite this being a clear accident.  Anyway much more about the 2002 accident can be read at the below link:

GI Flashbacks: The 2002 Armored Vehicle Accident