In August, South Korean President Moon Jae-in responded to residents’ concerns and temporarily halted the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system so that a proper environmental review could be conducted, but now he has reversed that decision and allowed the United States to resume installation of the ballistic missile interception system.
Some 400 protesters were occupying a road leading up to the town of Seongjou, where the THAAD system is located, when they were swarmed by thousands of police officers in riot gear.
About 38 people were injured in the skirmish, including six police officers, though no serious injuries were reported. AP reports that a number of US military vehicles were seen headed towards the THAAD site, including trucks with payloads covered in black sheets that appeared to be launchers.
Following North Korea’s Sunday detonation of what it claimed to be a hydrogen bomb, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Moon met in Russia Thursday to reiterate their call for an oil embargo against Pyongyang and other economic sanctions to reign in the communist nation’s provocations.
Abe said, "We must make North Korea immediately and fully comply with all relevant UN Security Council resolutions and abandon all its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner," and that "North Korea is escalating an overt challenge to the peace, prosperity, law and order of the region and indeed the entire world."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed the proposed sanctions as "useless and ineffective," and said that such actions along with South Korea’s recent military drills were "playing into [North Korea’s] hands."
Moon’s Press Secretary Yoon Young-chan said that Abe and Moon agreed to continue applying pressure to Russia and China to cut off their oil supplies to the Democratic People’s People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and to cooperate on pushing the United Nations to level tougher sanctions against Pyongyang.
After meeting with Moon Thursday, Putin said during a news conference, "We should not give in to emotions and push Pyongyang into a corner."
South Koreans aren’t the only people opposed to THAAD, as Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang reaffirmed China’s opposition to THAAD’s deployment on the grounds that the missile system’s radar could be used to spy on their military activity.
Washington has denied this, claiming that the system’s sole purpose is to fend off aggression from Pyongyang.
Geng told reporters that China has urged Seoul and Washington to "take seriously the security concerns and interests of China and other regional countries," and that the two allied nations should "immediately stop the deployment process and withdraw relevant equipment," according to AP.