Deployment technically possible, but politically very difficult, a Seoul-based expert says
U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) General Vincent K. Brooks said the U.S. made Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system will be deployed in South Korea in the next eight to ten months, numerous media outlets in South Korea reported on Friday.
The news came a day after another high-ranking U.S. official’s statement, which also said the THAAD battery deployment will go forward as previously planned.“The THAAD battery will be deployed in South Korea within eight to ten months,” General Brooks said during a breakfast meeting held at the Koreana Hotel.
“I don’t see any change to any of the important priorities in the U.S.- ROK alliance, including on the timeline for the deployment of the THAAD system,” Daniel R. Russel, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs said on Thursday, Washington according to Yonhap.
But some political pundits in Seoul believe the ongoing Choi Sun-sil scandal will diminish President Park’s control over the country, to the point where the current administration will not able to deploy the missile defense system.
“The deployment of the THAAD system before the end of (Park’s) term will be impossible as the Seoul government has lost so much political momentum,” Choi Young-il, a professor affiliated with Kyunghee University told NK News last week. “This will only get worse over the time.”
Another expert added the deployment could happen next year, but only under certain conditions.
“If there is absolutely no social friction during the deployment process, then technologically, it is possible,” Kim Dong-yup, the professor at the University of North Korean Studies told NK News.
“But considering the South’s ongoing political turmoil … it would be hard. The general’s announcement reflects Washington’s impatience and wishful thinking (on this matter),” said Kim, adding that no one at this point can predict how much longer President Park will be in office.
On the same day as the U.S. General’s announcement, a poll conducted by South Korea media showed Park’s approval rate has collapsed to five percent, the lowest of any South Korean President. – NK News
(JH Ahn is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul. He previously worked as an interpreter for United States Forces Korea.)