US, South Korea can now deploy the THAAD system to their preferred site
China, North Korea still fiercely oppose the system's deployment
South Korea’s controversial THAAD missile defense system is one step closer to reality after Lotte International approved a land swap deal with the government Monday, an official with the country’s defense ministry said.
The THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, system is designed to shoot down short, medium and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, such as those North Korea claims to own.
The deal between international conglomerate Lotte and the South Korean government will allow the THAAD system to be deployed on the military’s preferred site.
The contract will officially be signed on Tuesday, the official told CNN. The US and the South Korean governments are planning to deploy the system by the end of 2017.
During his recent trip to South Korea, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said his country was determined to defend South Korea against the “evolving North Korean threat.”
But speaking at a news conference Monday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang said it would “severely disrupt regional strategic balance.”
“The Chinese side has stressed repeatedly that we understand the legitimate concerns of relevant parties in safeguarding their security, however one country’s security cannot be pursued at the expense of (anothers),” he said.
North Korea, China opposed
Both North Korea and China have repeatedly stated they are strongly against the deployment of THAAD.
On February 3, North Korea accused the US and South Korea of pushing the Korean peninsula to the “brink of nuclear war” with the deployment.
In a statement, the rogue state alleged the THAAD system was part of an offensive strategy “for a preemptive attack on the North.”
But Mattis said Pyongyang’s aggressive behavior is why THAAD was necessary.
Meanwhile China has consistently opposed the missile system’s deployment, saying it could jeopardize their “legitimate national security interests,” according to Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
John Delury, associate professor of international studies at Yonsei University in Seoul, previously told CNN that Beijing was doing “everything in its power to prevent the deployment of the defense system.”
Yoonjung Seo contributed to this report.