Could this situation point to a rift in relations between the US and South Korea?
On Tuesday South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered an investigation into the secret entry of four rocket launchers into the country under the US missile defense program, presidential chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan said at a press briefing.
The president ordered to reveal who had authorized the secret entry of rocket launchers and why this was not disclosed.
Firstly, the South Korean government did give permission to import THAAD, but only for two units. The four additional ones were delivered without official permission.
Secondly, the president of the country was simply not informed about this step. The country's defense ministry was aware of the unauthorized delivery, but did not inform Moon Jae-in about it.
The exact reasons why the South Korean military, in fact, deceived its own president, are unknown, but one of the possible explanations lies on the surface.
Moon Jae-in, like the ruling Joint Democratic Party from which he was elected, is very skeptical about the THAAD missile defense system.
In mid-May, the head of the Democratic Party said that the THAAD missile launcher could be returned to the US if experts find violations of South Korean legislation. In particular, he noted that the decision to place them had to be adopted by the parliament, and that was not done in this case.
Now, after two weeks, a blatant violation has been revealed – the importation of very powerful and very effective foreign weapons into the country was achieved without official permission and even without the head of state being notified.
There is another aspect to his situation.
A month ago, US President Donald Trump demanded that South Korea pay a billion dollars for these supplied launchers. His demand was categorically refused by the previous South Korean government, which was at that time represented by the ministry of defense.
Right after this incident was made public, US security forces very quickly disavowed the statement said by their president, assuring that the US will take on all the costs of deploying the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea.
Why would they do this?
It seems that the representatives of the US law enforcement agencies were perfectly aware of the fact that the launchers were brought to South Korea, in fact, illegally. They also knew about the very serious resistance in South Korean society, especially among its elites, to the very idea of the THAAD missile defense system being deployed.
Where this scandal will lead to, only time will tell but for now, it seems like both sides have some serious talking to do.
In July 2016, Seoul and Washington agreed to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea's Seongju County amid growing tensions spurred by North Korea's ballistic and nuclear tests. The THAAD system is designed to intercept short, medium and intermediate ballistic missiles at the terminal incoming stage.
In April, the first elements of the THAAD system were installed at the site of a former golf course in Seongju. According to the South Korean Defense Ministry, the system is expected to be completely installed by the end of the year, with a number of its functions already in operation.
The THAAD deployment has been criticized by a number of countries, including Russia and neighboring China.