The South Korean government on Saturday began a formal environmental survey on the advanced U.S. missile defense system deployed in a southern town amid a fierce protest by local residents and activists, officials said.
The defense and environment ministries were to conduct their joint study of electromagnetic radiation and noise from the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in Seongju, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, according to them.
Two rocket launchers and a powerful X-band radar are operational at the new U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) base, formerly a private golf course.
A "small-scale" environmental impact assessment has been under way there since December under South Korean law. The planned on-site survey is to verify the results of the evaluation by a local contractor.
According to the officials, a group of 30 ministry officials, researchers, county officials and reporters, arrived at the THAAD deployment site by helicopter at around 9:30 a.m.
After verifying the environmental impact evaluation results, the group was to disclose the outcome at the scene, they noted.
Earlier on Thursday, the government postponed the environmental survey plan because of bad weather and fierce protests from activists and local residents who have demanded that the government scrap the THAAD deployment in the area.
Following weeks of inter-agency discussions, the government has decided to conduct an additional environmental evaluation, a process that will take several more months, before consulting with the USFK on changing the "tentative" THAAD deployment to a permanent basis.
Meanwhile, Thomas Vandal, commander of the Eighth U.S. Army, held a news conference in Seongju and offered an apology on behalf of an American soldier, who grinned as he used his mobile phone to film residents protesting against the THAAD deployment on April 26.
But Seongju residents refused to accept his apology, dismissing it as "meaningless." (Yonhap)