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Police deployed at South Korea THAAD base as U.S. seeks upgrades

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense base in Seongju, South Korea, has become the site of frequent clashes between protesters and police. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense base in Seongju, South Korea, has become the site of frequent clashes between protesters and police. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

June 15 (UPI) -- South Korea's military continues to deliver materials and equipment to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense base in Seongju, as the United States aims to enhance interoperability of Patriot and THAAD systems on the peninsula.

Seoul made deliveries six times in May and multiple times in June. The military made its fourth delivery of the month to the THAAD site early Tuesday, News 1 reported.

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Supplies began to arrive at the location at about 6 a.m. but local protesters may have attempted to block the vehicles from entry. More than 50 people also held a sit-in at a nearby village hall, according to Newsis.

Police began to force the group to disband at about 6:50 a.m., with more than 1,000 officers deployed to the area. The vehicles were able to enter the base about 7:30 a.m., News 1 said.

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The Soseong-ri All-Source Situation Room, an anti-THAAD group, said that police have been mobilized about twice a week to "secure a regular overland transportation route" for the military.

Activists who claim the THAAD base is illegal clashed with police. No injuries were reported.

"The more police there are, the more severe the human rights violations at Soseong-ri," activists said, according to Newsis. "As long as police enable illegal construction at the THAAD base, [clashes] will inevitably continue at Soseong-ri."

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The military said more than 20 vehicles were used to deliver essential supplies to soldiers and construction material.

Confrontations between police and protesters in South Korea come at a time when the U.S. military could be seeking to upgrade the THAAD base on the peninsula.

U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Lt. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler said Wednesday in a statement to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that "development efforts associated with U.S. Forces Korea" are designed to "improve Patriot and THAAD interoperability and bring a Patriot launch-on-remote capability ... in Fiscal Year 2021."

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Karbler also said a new integrated capability that will leverage "THAAD's AN/TPY-2 radar together with the Patriot radar" will be "fielded this summer" with USFK.

South Korea's defense ministry previously said facility improvements were being made on the base.

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