SEOUL • South Korea's military aims to deploy an advanced US missile defence unit on a golf course, a defence ministry official said yesterday, after it had to scrap its initial site for the battery in the face of opposition from residents.
Tension on the Korean peninsula has been high this year, beginning with North Korea's fourth nuclear test in January, which was followed by a satellite launch, a string of tests of various missiles, and its fifth and largest nuclear test last month.
In July, South Korea agreed with the United States that a US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) anti-missile unit would be deployed in the Seongju region, south-east of the capital, Seoul, to defend the country. But residents of the melon-farming area protested over worries about the safety of the system's powerful radar and the likelihood that it would be a target for North Korea, which warned of retaliation, if war broke out.
The plan to deploy the system has also angered China, which worries that Thaad's powerful radar would compromise its security.
The new site for the missile battery would be a golf course at the high-end Lotte Skyhill Seongju Country Club, the South Korean ministry official said, confirming media reports.
The club is owned by the Lotte Group conglomerate and had been considered as an alternative due to its high altitude and accessibility for military vehicles, the defence official said. It was unclear how the military would acquire the property, reportedly worth about 100 billion won (S$124 million).
"We will positively consider the deployment of Thaad at the golf course, considering the grave situation regarding national security," said club official Kim Byung Wook. He said the company received a notice from the defence ministry about the plan on Thursday.
The US said this week that it would speed up deployment of the system, given the pace of North Korea's missile tests, and it would be stationed in South Korea "as soon as possible".
The US and South Korea have said Thaad does not threaten China's security or target any country other than North Korea.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said deployment of the system should be stopped, and again promised unspecified countermeasures.