July 11 (UPI) — The commander of the U.S. 8th Army in South Korea defended the deployment of the U.S. THAAD battery on the Korean peninsula.
Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal told reporters at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, THAAD is needed in central South Korea for strategic reasons, local news service EDaily reported.
The field army, which completed its move from its former base in Yongsan, Seoul, to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, on Tuesday, is “ready to fight tonight,” Vandal said at the press conference, according to Stars and Stripes.
THAAD complements the presence of 28,000 U.S. troops and 625,000 active South Korean armed forces personnel, Vandal said, because the Kim Jong Un regime is developing not only ballistic missiles but also weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
THAAD launchers are operational and were deployed in Seongju, at a civilian site rather than a pre-existing military base, because it is the “best” means to defend the country, according to Vandal.
The THAAD battery defends 10 million people, the U.S. military commander added.
THAAD also intercepts ballistic missiles launched from North Korea that could possibly target U.S. military bases in Japan or Guam.
Plans for the relocation of the U.S. army have been underway for more than a decade.
The expansion of Camp Humphreys cost $10.7 billion. South Korea provided most of the funding and labor for the project, according to Stars and Stripes.
“I will reassure you and the citizens of the Republic of Korea that this alliance is ready to fight tonight, that we will deter provocations from North Korea and if necessary we will defend the Republic of Korea,” Vandal said.
Seoul, one of the most densely populated cities in the world, is working on plans to turn the former Yongsan military base into a public park, according to EDaily.
The 600 acres of newly vacant land should be built into an “ecological natural park like New York’s Central Park,” President Moon Jae-in has said.
Some U.S. forces will remain in Yongsan, including the U.S. Forces Korea commander.