South Korean protesters and Seongju area residents shout slogans and hold banners reading 'No THAAD' during a rally against defense policy in Seoul on Monday. File Photo by Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA
July 31 (UPI) -- South Korea's new defense minister said Monday President Moon Jae-in not only wants to deploy additional THAAD interceptor launchers but also remains open to placing the additional launchers at a different site.
Song Young-moo told South Korean lawmakers he proposed additional THAAD launchers to Moon, and that the deployment was to be a "temporary placement" at a site other than Seongju, local newspaper Maeil Business reported.
Seongju is the location of permanently installed THAAD launchers. The site was once a golf course owned by Lotte, a South Korean conglomerate that may have been the target of recent Chinese embargoes.
Song told lawmakers the electromagnetic radiation from the THAAD radar in Seongju is "not having a major impact," a statement that may have eased concerns about potential risks to nearby communities.
"As someone who has engaged in the Aegis [ballistic missile defense system] business, I do not think a major impact could result from the THAAD radar's electromagnetic radiation," Song said.
On Friday, South Korea announced a plan to conduct more environmental assessments at the site where protesters have been convening regularly to express their opposition to THAAD.
Seoul's defense minister also said South Korea's self-developed defense systems are not currently adequate enough to strike incoming North Korea missiles, including the "intercontinental ballistic missile" Pyongyang launched Friday.
Song added it is too early to tell whether the test resulted in successful atmospheric re-entry of a North Korean warhead, and it is unknown whether North Korea has the capability to mount a nuclear warhead on the missile tested over the weekend.
The South Korean defense official said the Moon administration has not ruled out dialogue with Pyongyang, an option that is integral to Seoul's two-track policy, according to the report.
The greatest danger, however, lies with North Korea's decision to pursue weapons development, according to Song.
"Kim Jong Un thinks he can maintain the regime only by retaining nuclear weapons and missiles," he said.