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Moon Jae-in

‘Shocked’ South Korea leader Moon orders probe into why US delivered four extra THAAD launchers without telling him

It comes as South Korea and China try to put relations back on track after deployment of missile system infuriated Beijing

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 May, 2017, 3:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 May, 2017, 11:17pm

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has ordered a probe into the introduction of four THAAD anti-missile launchers in addition to two deployed by the US military before his election, his spokesman said on Tuesday.

Moon was “shocked” to hear that the four additional THAAD launchers, deployed to counter the North Korean missile threat, were brought in without being reported to the new government or to the public, presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan told a media briefing.

“President Moon ordered his senior secretary for civil affairs and head of the National Security Office to find the truth behind the unauthorised entry of the four rocket launchers,” Yoon said.

“He also ordered them to find the truth about why it has never been reported to the people or the new government.”

The deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system by the US military, agreed by the government of Moon’s predecessor, was a controversial issue in the May 10 presidential election and has infuriated China, North Korea’s lone major ally.

South Korean firms from airlines to automakers and retailers has suffered from China’s backlash to the decision last year to deploy the THAAD anti-missile system.

China says the system’s powerful radar can penetrate deep into its territory and undermine its security. South Korea and the United States have said the deployment is aimed purely at defence against North Korea.

Moon has pledged to seek a parliamentary review of the THAAD system, and sent his representative, Lee Hae-chan, to China to meet President Xi Jinping this month.

Xi told Lee that China wanted to put ties with South Korea back on a “normal track”, but he also urged it to respect China’s concerns and resolve tension over the THAAD deployment.

The announcement of the probe comes after North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test.

Watch: why was China angry at South Korea?

Monday’s test involved a new rocket with a precision guidance system that landed within seven meters of its target, its state-controlled news agency said Tuesday.

Leader Kim Jong-un oversaw the launch of the missile. Japan said the missile landed about 300 kilometres from the Oki islands off the nation’s west coast.

Preparations before the firing were more automated than for the previous “Hwasong”, or Scud, rockets, the Korean Central News Agency said, adding that this “markedly” reduces the launching time.

The accuracy claims, if true, would potentially represent a significant advancement in North Korea’s missile programme. KCNA said Kim called for the continued development of more powerful strategic weapons, though the report didn’t mention whether the missile could carry nuclear warheads.

Monday’s launch -the ninth this year - came two days after the Group of Seven nations pledged to “strengthen measures” aimed at prompting North Korea to cease nuclear and ballistic missile tests. World leaders are grappling with how to halt provocations by the isolated nation, with South Korea’s president seeking engagement while US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe take a harder line.

KCNA said North Korea won’t be swayed by pressure from the G7.

Trump, who has sought more help from China to rein in its neighbour and ally, said on Twitter that “North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbour, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile...but China is trying hard!”

Beijing also expressed its opposition to the test. All sides should “ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula as soon as possible and bring the Peninsula issue back onto the right track of peaceful dialogue,” China’s foreign ministry said.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg