Seoul to speed up THAAD deployment process

Seoul, Feb 27 (IANS) South Korea will speed up the process of deploying the US missile shield on its soil after the Lotte Group on Monday gave the green light to a land swap contract with the Defence Ministry.

According to a South Korean Defence Ministry official, Lotte, the country’s fifth-largest conglomerate, approved the deal to exchange its golf course in southeast South Korea for military land in Gyeonggi province, Xinhua news agency reported.

Lotte International, a Lotte Group unit possessing the golf course where the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) battery will be sited, in its board of directors meeting said the signing ceremony would take place on Tuesday.

Seoul and Washington agreed in July last year to deploy one THAAD battery by the end of this year. The site was changed in November to the golf course amid strong opposition from residents.

The land swap deal was initially scheduled to be inked in January, but it was delayed amid strong opposition at home and abroad. On February 3, Lotte held a board meeting, in which it failed to endorse the contract.

According to Yonhap news agency, the THAAD deployment process may be completed between May and July.

The South Korean military is hurriedly pushing it as domestic political uncertainty can delay the installation of the US anti-missile system.

President Park Geun-hye has been struggling with a corruption scandal surrounding her and her longtime friend.

The deal came as residents have been holding candlelight rallies every night since the THAAD deployment decision, protesting against the government that failed to collect their opinion in advance.