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Protesters at South Korea THAAD site dispersed after attempting to block delivery

Protesters at South Korea THAAD site dispersed after attempting to block delivery
Police break up a sit-in by residents and activists opposing delivery of materials to the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense base in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea, on Wednesday. Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

April 28 (UPI) -- South Korea's military confronted dozens of protesters while attempting to deliver construction materials and power generators to a base for the U.S. missile defense system Terminal High Altitude Area Defense in Seongju.

The military was able to bring in the materials Wednesday. Seoul said the equipment was for the purposes of "improving accommodations" for soldiers. Protesters who claimed the materials were being used to upgrade THAAD batteries attempted to block the delivery, but were dispersed, News 1 reported.

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Seoul began the delivery early Wednesday, at 7:30 a.m., but protesters already had begun to gather near the entrance of the THAAD site in central South Korea at 5:30 a.m., local newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported.

The protesters were residents of Seongju and a nearby town, Gimcheon. More than 70 local civilians claimed that "battery upgrades" were, "threatening peace on the Korean Peninsula," the report said.

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South Korea's defense ministry has denied the equipment was being used for upgrades. The government said Tuesday that the materials had "nothing to do with THAAD battery capabilities," according to Yonhap.

Local groups including the Council for THAAD Withdrawal and Peace said they are skeptical of government claims.

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"Deploying a large number of police in a small town with many elderly residents amid the coronavirus pandemic is dangerous," the coalition of groups said, according to the Chosun. "We will fight to the end to stop them."

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No major injuries were reported, but at least three protesters were transferred to a nearby hospital after they suffered cuts or abrasions, the report said.

THAAD is designed to intercept intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The South's military is on guard for additional North Korea provocations after Pyongyang tested two short-range ballistic missiles March 25.

The defense ministry said Wednesday that the missiles flew 370 miles. Last month, the military said the flight range was 280 miles, according to Yonhap.

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