South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday ordered a special probe into what the presidential office called the secret or undisclosed entry of four rocket launchers into the country under the U.S. missile defense program deployed here, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said.
The four rocket launchers were brought into the country in addition to two units that have been deployed as part of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, Cheong Wa Dae said, apparently suggesting the additional delivery could be declared unauthorized as the weapons came in without its knowledge.
"President Moon ordered to find out how the four additional rocket launchers were brought into the country, who made such a decision, why this has not been disclosed to the people and why this has not been reported to the new administration even to date," Moon's chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan told a press briefing.
Yoon said the president was shocked to learn of the existence of four more rocket launchers, and called Defense Minister Han Min-koo to confirm. Han apparently confirmed.
The defense ministry earlier failed to report the entry of the additional equipment to the new government during its policy briefing to Moon's de facto power transition team last week, Yoon noted.
"President Moon ordered his senior secretary for civil affairs and the NSO chief to find the truth behind the secret entry of the four rocket launchers," he said.
However, many said the existence of at least six THAAD rocket launchers here had been well suspected, if not documented.
The U.S. is still in the process of deploying one THAAD battery under an agreement with the Seoul government. One THAAD battery includes six to nine rocket launchers.
Also, a footage of several THAAD rocket launchers filmed and broadcast by a local TV network in April has confirmed the existence of at least four THAAD rocket launchers in the country, they added.
When asked why such a widely known delivery of more than two rocket launchers should still be considered a secret, Cheong Wa Dae officials said their existence here has never been officially reported.
Moon has been critical of the deployment the U.S. missile shield. The president earlier cited what he called a procedural flaw in the government decision to allow the deployment of the U.S. defense system in the small southeastern county of Seongju, located some 300 kilometers from Seoul. He insisted the former Seoul government should have secured parliamentary approval.
He has yet to take any action or seek parliamentary approval for the THAAD deployment. (Yonhap)