THAAD Conducts Successful Intercept Flight Test In Alaska Against Musudan Equivalent Target

The big take away for Korea watchers from this successful flight test of the THAAD missile defense system is that the threat target was an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) which is the same class of missile as North Korea’s Musudan.  A THAAD battery was deployed to Guam back in 2013 to defend against the Musudan threat to Guam and this flight test validates its capability to defend against this threat:

The United States said on Tuesday it shot down a simulated, incoming intermediate-range ballistic missile similar the ones being developed by countries like North Korea, in a new test of the nation’s defences.

Planned months ago, the U.S. missile defence test over the Pacific Ocean has gained significance after North Korea’s July 4 launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile heightened concerns about the threat from Pyongyang.

The test was the first-ever of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system against an incoming IRBM, which experts say is a faster and more difficult target to hit than shorter-range missiles.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency said the IRBM was designed to behave similarly to the kinds of missiles that could threaten the United States.

“The successful demonstration of THAAD against an IRBM-range missile threat bolsters the country’s defensive capability against developing missile threats in North Korea and other countries,” the Missile Defense Agency said in a statement.   [Reuters]

You can read more at the link, but the THAAD system has now had 14 of 14 successful intercepts during flight tests.

ROK Vice Defense Minister Meets with Local THAAD Protesters In Seongju

It looks like the ROK government is trying to build trust with the local protesters in Seongju in an attempt to hopefully open the road to the THAAD site:

Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk, second from right, speaks with a group of some 30 residents about their concerns regarding the Thaad deployment at the Soseong-ri town hall in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang, near the golf course where the antimissile system is partially installed. [YONHAP]

Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk told a group of residents of Seongju County, North Gyeongsang, that the government will “guarantee” their participation in the environmental impact appraisal of the U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) battery.

Suh sought out Seongju residents on Tuesday at the Soseong-ri town hall, near the former golf course where the U.S. Forces Korea’s Thaad battery is partially deployed. Some have interpreted his remarks as suggesting that the government plans to conduct a full environmental impact appraisal, which would take at least one year, as opposed to a smaller study.

Under the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, a small-scale appraisal does not require gathering input from residents and can take under six months to complete.

Seongju residents and Won Buddhists have been protesting the deployment, especially the stealthy, expedited manner in which it was moved to the golf course in late April under the previous government without a proper environmental appraisal.  (……….)

“The residents are most concerned about including a delegation while measuring electromagnetic waves,” he said.

The vice minister elaborated that he thus emphasized to them the principle of guaranteeing their participation, and that the Ministry of National Defense is reviewing how to do so. But he said it not official that the assessment will be undertaken.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

If the residents want to go measure electromagnetic waves they can do it right now.  They can purchase their own detection device and stand at their homes or farms and see what electromagnetic waves they detect.  They are not going to detect anything though because a group of Korean reporters were invited to the THAAD site on Guam and have already measured electromagnetic waves and found nothing.

This photo, taken on July 18, 2016, and provided by the U.S. Air Force, shows officials measuring the level of electromagnetic waves from the radar of a THAAD battery in Guam, with South Korean reporters watching and taking notes. (Yonhap)

What is so stupid about this claim is do these activists really think the US military would just let their personnel on the site get exposed to dangerous electromagnetic waves much less local residents?  Do they think soldiers on Guam just keep dropping dead and the US military just keeps replacing them with no one noticing?

Pro-THAAD Activists March Against Protesters In Seongju

Fortunately this protest did not turn violent:

Local residents and policemen clash near the deployment site of a U.S. anti-missile defense system in Seongju, South Korea on June 15. Conservative activists began confronting the protesters on Tuesday. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA

Conservative South Koreans who favor THAAD deployment confronted anti-THAAD activists near the site in Seongju when they attempted to enter the local town hall.

More than 200 members of a coalition of conservative organizations, including irate Korean homemakers, began a rally outside the building around noon on Tuesday, South Korean news service News 1 reported.

As tensions mounted between the two factions, about 1,500 police were deployed to block potential conflict, which was avoided until about 5 p.m. when activists calling for the “prompt deployment of THAAD” began marching on town hall.

 A Buddhist sect was holding an event on the road outside the building when the march began.

Won Buddhists protesting THAAD have called for its cancellation.

Facing police obstruction, the conservative activists demanded the “right of way quickly,” citing the law.

Shouts were exchanged across the sides, and anti-THAAD activists blocked the road to prevent an escalation.

No injuries were reported.

South Korean activists who oppose THAAD have not stopped occupying the town hall and outlying areas since the missile defense system was deployed in April.  [UPI]

You can read more at the link.

USFK Responds to President Moon’s Claim THAAD was Only to Install One Launcher this Year

It appears that President Moon can’t keep his THAAD excuses straight and USFK has had to correct the record:

A THAAD interceptor launcher is in place at a former golf course in Sejongju, North Gyeongsang Province, in this file photo. (Yonhap)

The U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said Friday it has an “original” agreement with South Korea to deploy the THAAD missile defense system here as soon as possible.

It was in response to President Moon Jae-in’s view that the deployment process has been “accelerated for some reason” that he does not know.

He has apparently questioned the transparency of the related procedures, especially at home.

“Originally, the alliance decided to deploy THAAD as soon as able in order to substantially improve our layered missile defense against North Korean missile threats,” a USFK spokesperson told Yonhap News Agency.

She would not discuss specifics on the timeline, however, citing “operational security reasons.”

The official stressed that the U.S. “trusts” South Korea’s official stance that the THAAD deployment was an “alliance decision.”

“We have worked closely and have been fully transparent with the ROK government throughout this process,” she said, using the acronym for South Korea’s formal name, the Republic of Korea.

It’s rare for the USFK to issue a statement on the sensitive THAAD issue. It usually leaves it to the Pentagon or refers media to South Korea’s defense ministry.

It came a day after a foreign news report said that Moon, a liberal leader who took office in early May, took issue with the timeline of the deployment of the U.S. strategic asset on the peninsula.

In an interview with Reuters, Moon was quoted as saying that just one THAAD interceptor launcher was originally scheduled to be installed this year, with five others to arrive in 2018.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but the ROK government and I believe President Moon knew about the six launchers and have just been using this for domestic political reasons to appease his anti-US base.  His upcoming summit with President Trump could be very interesting.

ROK Presidential Advisor Says THAAD Environmental Assessment will Take 1 Year

To properly study the effects the THAAD system has on putting greens and sand bunkers the environmental assessment has to be conducted through four seasons according to this ROK Presidential advisor:

THAAD site on former South Korean golf course outside of Seongju.

The adviser also said that the environmental assessment that South Korea plans to conduct over the U.S. THAAD missile defense system could take one year because the study should take into consideration the deployment’s impact over four seasons.  [Yonhap]

Here are the questions I have which I doubt any journalist will bother tracking down.  How long did the environmental assessment take to approve bulldozing the top of a mountain and installing the golf course where the THAAD site is?  Also how long did the environmental assessment to install the ROK military’s Green Pine radars take?

Picture of the Day: Anti-THAAD Protesters Scuffle with Police

Residents clash with police on THAAD

Local residents and policemen clash near the deployment site of a U.S. anti-missile defense system in Seongju, some 300 kilometers south of Seoul, on June 15, 2017. The residents have been blocking the roads with desks and other small furniture to stop the installation of the system, known as THAAD. Scuffles erupted when police tried to remove the blockage and ended 10 minutes after the police stepped back. (Yonhap)

Elderly Residents Continue to Block Access Road to THAAD Site In South Korea

Here is an update from the anti-THAAD frontlines in Seongju county:

In Soseong-ri, a small farming village of about 80 residents in southern South Korea, a band of elderly women is at the forefront of protests against the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system next to their neighborhood.

A dozen or so women, in their 60s to 80s, stand watch each day around the clock to make sure no military vehicles enter the deployment site through the only road to it — a former golf course owned by a leading conglomerate, the Lotte Group.

The vigil has forced the U.S. military to use helicopters instead to shuttle fuel and supplies to the site hosting the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.  (………..)

The women, who brandish canes and umbrellas at the military helicopters and shout for them to go away every time one flies through the village, say they have no interest in the politics of the deployment.

But they protest, longing for the peace they had before.

“I can’t sleep. I’m taking sedatives at night but I still get only two hours of sleep,” said 87-year-old Na Wi-bun, who lives within a kilometer (0.62 mile) of the site and says she can hear the generator that powers THAAD humming around the clock.  [Reuters]

You can read more at the link, but it is ironic they are complaining about noise when their protest is causing the noise.  The helicopters would not be flying if trucks were allowed to drive up the road to the site.  Also the generators as we have seen in with the radar site in Japan can be muffled and the noise ultimately eliminated when the radar is hooked up to commercial power.  However, if construction crews cannot drive up the road to hook up to commercial power then the noise will remain.

Moon Administration Reconfirms ROK Government’s Commitment to THAAD Deployment

Like I have beens saying President Moon is not stupid and the THAAD is not going anywhere.  The whole current environmental assessment issue with the THAAD deployment is just domestic politics:

Chung told reporters Friday that the decision to postpone the full deployment was a domestic measure to ensure a “transparent and democratic process.” He didn’t give a timeframe.

“Our government plans to deal with the THAAD deployment with a few principles while being fully aware of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” Chung said. “The government has no intention to fundamentally change what it has promised under the Korea-U.S. alliance.”

“THAAD was a decision made to protect South Korea and U.S. Forces Korea from North Korea’s growing threats,” he added. “The government will not handle such a decision lightly just because there has been a government change.”

Many South Koreans oppose THAAD because they fear it will have negative economic and environmental effects while being positioned mainly to protect U.S. forces in southern areas. China also strongly objects to the anti-missile battery, fearing it can be used against its military.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read the rest at the link, but the talking point that the THAAD is just there to protect US forces in the southern sections of the country like much of the criticism of the THAAD is stupid.    First of all it is the US-ROK alliance which means the THAAD will protect ROK assets as well.  The US military is not going to let ROK bases get blown up.  Secondly, if a nuclear warhead is launched at a US or ROK base at Busan for example, shooting the ballistic missile down protects the entire city not just the military base.

Finally the environmental concerns talking point has already been disproven and yet people continue to repeat it.  The Congresswoman from the one other location in the world that has an forward deployed THAAD battery, has said Guam has had no problems with the system in the four years it has been there.

I don’t mind criticism of the THAAD deployment, but like so many other issues between the ROK and the US the criticism is largely not fact based.

ROK Defense Ministry Discloses How It Followed Environmental Laws to Deploy THAAD System

This was actually clever what the Korean Defense Ministry did to comply with ROK environmental laws that would have delayed the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system for up to year:

THAAD site on former South Korean golf course outside of Seongju.

A fact-finding mission into the deployment of a U.S. antimissile system in Korea in April raised a new suspicion that the Ministry of National Defense tried to sidestep an environmental study required by the law, the Blue House said Monday.

Following the discovery, President Moon Jae-in ordered a proper environmental study, effectively stalling the deployment schedule to be completed by the end of this year.

The probe also found that Lt. Gen. Wee Seung-ho, deputy defense minister of policy, has ordered his team to delete crucial pieces of information from a report to Moon’s security team, Yoon Young-chan, senior secretary for public relations, said in a press briefing.

Moon ordered last week an investigation into the ministry’s failure to fully brief his team about the U.S. military’s delivery of four additional launchers for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system.

The probe identified Wee as responsible for the omission and revealed that the ministry tried to avoid the environmental impact study. The conclusion was reported to Moon at the senior secretariat meeting on Monday.

Despite protests by Beijing and Moscow, Seoul and Washington agreed on the deployment of a Thaad battery in July 2016.

Key components of a Thaad battery, including a radar system and two missile launchers, were installed on a former golf course in Seongju, North Gyeongsang, on April 26 – less than two weeks before the May 9 election that brought Moon to power.

A Thaad battery typically consists of six launchers, 48 interceptors, a fire control and communication unit and radar. The military authorities of Korea and the United States planned to complete the deployment before the end of this year.

According to Yoon, the ministry created a plan on Nov. 25, 2016 that it will offer the Seongju site to the U.S. military in two separate transfers. Of the 700,000 square-meter (173-acre) site, a 328,779 square-meter piece was transferred in the first phase and another piece, about 370,000 square meters, was planned to be offered later in the second phase.

“By designating the first phase site to be smaller than 330,000 square meters, the ministry planned that only a summary environmental impact study was needed,” Yoon said. The law requires a full-scale environmental study when the site is larger than 330,000 square meters.

Yoon then said the first phase site is an odd-looking inverse U-shaped piece of land. “The shape was abnormally designed in order to exclude the land that is supposed to be inside the U shape,” he said.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but General Wee claims that he ordered the deletion in the report about the four launchers because the US military asked him to.  My guess would be that the US military wanted to keep the location of the launchers secret for operational security reasons.  We will see how this plays out, but my assessment is that the Moon administration will use this to maximum political advantage to appease his base without actually changing the deployment decision.