Moon orders probe into US launchers

SEOUL • South Korean President Moon Jae In has ordered a probe after the Defence Ministry failed to inform him that four more launchers for the controversial United States anti-missile system had been brought into the country, his spokesman said yesterday.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) system battery was initially deployed in March in the south-eastern region of Seongju with just two of its maximum load of six launchers to counter a growing North Korean missile threat.

During his successful campaign for the May 9 presidential election, Mr Moon had called for a parliamentary review of the system, whose deployment has also infuriated China, North Korea's lone major ally.

"President Moon said it was very shocking" to hear that the four additional launchers had been installed without being reported to the new government or to the public, said the presidential spokesman.

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Mr Moon had campaigned on a more moderate approach to Pyongyang, calling for engagement even as the reclusive state pursues nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions and threats of more sanctions.

The US military in South Korea did not have immediate comment on Mr Moon's comments. The South Korean military also did not immediately comment.

Mr Moon's order of a probe into the Thaad launchers came amid signs of easing tensions between major trading partners South Korea and China. South Korea's Jeju Air said yesterday China has approved a plan to double its flights to the Chinese city of Weihai from Friday.

China has been incensed over the Thaad deployment, fearing it could give the US military the capability of seeing into its own missile systems, and could open the door to a wider deployment of the system, possibly in Japan, military analysts say.

China has denied it had discriminated against South Korean companies, which have faced product boycotts and bans on Chinese tourists visiting South Korea.

A Korean-Chinese joint drama My Goddess, My Mum starring South Korean actress Lee Da Hae, whose broadcast had been indefinitely delayed in China, was told by its Chinese partner recently that it will soon be aired.

However, retail giant Lotte Group has yet to reopen any of the 74 stores in China it was forced to close in March after the group allowed South Korea to install the Thaad system on land it owned.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline 'Moon orders probe into US launchers'. Print Edition | Subscribe