U.S., South Korea to deploy THAAD by July, report says

Deployment is taking place at a time of political uncertainty in South Korea.
By Elizabeth Shim   |   Jan. 20, 2017 at 9:44 AM
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The United States and South Korea are aiming to deploy the U.S. missile defense system THAAD on the peninsula by July, according to a Japanese press report.

The decision comes as uncertainty remains over whether South Korea will hold presidential elections in December, or earlier, depending on the outcome of a final impeachment decision from Korea's constitutional court, Asahi Shimbun reported on Friday.

If impeachment fails, President Park Geun-hye could return to finish her five-year term as president.

But elections could be held as early as this spring, and China, South Korea's biggest trading partner, has shown no signs of easing pressure on Seoul for its decision to deploy THAAD.

Seoul and Washington reached a bilateral decision to deploy THAAD in July 2016. At the time, the two countries agreed the missile defense system would be placed at its designated location by mid-2017.

More than half of South Koreans surveyed in a local Gallup poll said they are in favor of THAAD deployment, South Korean news service Newsis reported on Friday.

But the percentage of survey respondents who say they oppose THAAD deployment has also grown since the last survey on the issue, conducted last August, according to the report.

Survey results released Friday indicate about 51 percent of respondents are in favor of THAAD, while 40 percent say they are opposed to its deployment. About 9 percent of respondents declined to share their views.

Last July, 50 percent of respondents said they supported THAAD deployment while another 32 percent said they are opposed to the policy. By August, 56 percent of respondents said they are in favor of THAAD, while those who said they are opposed stood at 31 percent.

Support for THAAD was strongest among respondents who affiliated themselves with the conservative Saenuri or Bareun Parties, according to the report.

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