The South Korean Defense Ministry, still run by members of the previous Park Geun-hye administration, reportedly hid key information from the new Moon Jae-in administration about the deployment of four additional U.S. THAAD launchers in South Korea.
In April, prior to Moon Jae-in’s election, the Defense Ministry had only officially announced the deployment of two of the six launchers that make up a THAAD unit. On May 30, however, Moon discovered that four additional launchers had made their way into the country without an official report. The South Korean Defense Ministry, with the backing of the U.S., had apparently approved the deployment of four additional launchers without Moon’s knowledge, much less an endorsement. Having all the necessary parts of the THAAD battery in the country makes it all the more difficult for the new administration to reverse the deployment and return the weapon system to the United States.
The revelation comes before Moon has had a chance to meet with the Chinese and U.S. heads of states. This leaves the Moon administration with fewer options when negotiating with the two countries about the THAAD deployment. With the missile system’s deployment complete, China will likely take punitive measures that could significantly hurt the South Korean economy. And unless Moon is willing to make drastic changes to South Korea’s relationship with the U.S., the THAAD battery will likely remain in its current place for the foreseeable future. This could also mean that South Korea will once again be caught in the middle of a political battle between China and the U.S. with the South Korean people paying the price.
Moon has ordered an investigation into those responsible for the secret deployment of the additional THAAD launchers. The leftovers from the Park Geun-hye administration still managing South Korea’s defense will likely be replaced soon and held accountable. If the investigation uncovers evidence of the Defense Ministry intentionally withholding key national security information from the president, its leadership could face severe punishment.
High ranking officials suspected of being responsible include former Prime Minister (and interim president) Hwang Kyo-ahn, former National Security Office Chief Kim Kwan-jin, and Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo. According to Article 38 of South Korea’s Military Criminal Act, reporting false military information is punishable by death or life in prison.
On May 31, China and Korea expert Keith Bennett joined Brian Becker’s Loud and Clear on Radio Sputnik to discuss the implication of the U.S. and the South Korean Defense Ministry’s latest THAAD debacle:
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