June 6 (UPI) — The director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency visited central South Korea, where the missile defense system THAAD is being deployed.
Vice Adm. James Syring made the trip to Seongju on Tuesday, where THAAD has been operational since April, South Korean newspaper JoongAng Daily reported.
A South Korean military official who spoke to the JoongAng anonymously said the purpose of the visit was for the U.S. missile defense chief to inspect THAAD and boost the morale of the forces operating the system.
Syring arrived at the site on one of two UH-60 helicopters operated by U.S. Forces Korea, according to the report, after meeting with South Korean officials in Seoul
The deployment of THAAD has generated some controversy in South Korea.
The system was deployed overnight in April before environmental assessments were completed, a move that drew protesters to the site, and a promise from recently elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in to “review” the deployment.
Moon later said the deployment would not be reversed, and reassured multiple U.S. officials THAAD would stay at the site, per an earlier agreement between the United States and South Korea.
The South Korean leader, however, was not informed four additional THAAD launchers had been installed and had requested a probe into the issue.
On Monday, presidential Blue House spokesman Yoon Young-chan said a report from Moon’s national security chief Chung Eui-yong on the investigation found Deputy Minister for Defense Policy Wee Seung-ho was the person ultimately responsible for the omission.
Seoul’s defense ministry has since suspended Wee, who has been reassigned to the military’s policy research institute in Gyeryong, South Chungcheong Province.
Seoul’s military is to conduct a “proper environmental assessment” of THAAD, a defense ministry official told Yonhap on Tuesday.
“We will create a new environmental impact plan after exchanging views with the Blue House,” the official said. “There are no concrete plans yet.”