WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 (UPI) — The White House turned down a petition from South Korean activists requesting the rescission of a joint decision to deploy a U.S. missile defense system on the peninsula.
The response to the appeal, signed by more than 100,000 petitioners, was issued on Sunday, South Korea news service No Cut News reported on Monday.
The reply comes at a time when South Korea’s political opposition is calling for a reappraisal of the decision to deploy THAAD on a golf course about 180 miles from Seoul.
In the petition signed in July, activists said the deployment is a “controversial move that will…escalate tension in the region, by provoking North Korea, China and Russia into a spiraling arms race in the region that is already heavily militarized with weapons of mass destruction.”
In its response, the White House defended the deployment decision, calling it a way to “improve the missile defense posture of the U.S.-[South Korea] alliance” that takes a stand against “North Korea’s continued provocations and refusal to engage in serious negotiations on denuclearization.”
“The THAAD battery will be focused solely on countering the North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile threat. THAAD will improve the U.S.-[South Korea] joint missile defense posture in countering short-and medium-range regional ballistic missiles. It will not undermine China’s or Russia’s strategic deterrent,” the statement read.
In Seoul, former opposition party leader Moon Jae-in was under fire from ruling lawmakers after he had suggested on his Facebook page the South Korean government ought to rethink THAAD deployment.
Moon had said Seoul should engage with Pyongyang diplomatically and the THAAD decision was accelerating weapons buildup on the Korean peninsula.
Chung Jin-suk, the floor leader of Seoul’s ruling Saenuri Party said on Monday, “It is disappointing to see a potential presidential candidate hold such a weak awareness of security… If we suspend the process to deploy the THAAD, the Kim Jong Un regime will likely be very happy about it.”
Moon is believed to be the top opposition party candidate during South Korea’s 2017 presidential elections, according to Yonhap.