by Yoo Seungki
SEOUL, March 7 (Xinhua) -- The South Korean government is hurriedly pushing the deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in its soil as part of efforts to break through political difficulties facing impeached President Park Geun-hye and the conservative bloc.
South Korea's defense ministry said Tuesday two mobile launchers and a part of equipments necessary for THAAD arrived here late at night Monday and were transported to an unknown base of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).
THAAD is composed of six mobile launchers, 48 interceptors, an X-band radar and the fire and control unit.
It indicates a de-facto start of the THAAD deployment, which came just a week after Lotte signed a contract with the defense ministry to swap its golf course in southeast South Korea for military land near the capital Seoul.
No advance procedure has been completed, but the THAAD elements have already been brought to somewhere in South Korea, though not to the golf course in Seongju county, North Gyeongsang province where the THAAD battery is set to be placed.
The unusually hurried push for THAAD, which does not follow proper procedures, is not irrelevant to political ends of the conservative forces. Local media outlets believe a primary of the biggest opposition Minjoo Party would be a de-facto presidential election with no outstanding rival emerging from the conservative camp.
The ruling Liberty Korea Party and its splinter Righteous Party had lost public support over the corruption scandal embroiling President Park. Possibility seemed to have disappeared for the parties to regain presidential power.
The constitutional court is widely forecast to rule on the motion to impeach President Park on or before March 13. If it is upheld, an early presidential election must be held in 60 days.
The defense ministry denied any consideration of political schedule, but the deployment date was advanced from a date before the end of this year to sometime between June and August.
As the early presidential election looms large, the installation date is now moved up to a date as early as in April. Without the impeachment, the election would have been held in December.
Cheong Wooksik, director of Peace Network, local advocacy group, said in a recent interview with Xinhua that the conservative forces would want a "THAAD" presidential election.
Conservative politicians believe that public attention to security issues during an election period would help them win a victory as voters tend to cast ballots conservatively when tensions mount in the Korean Peninsula.
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who is serving as caretaker president after Park's impeachment on Dec. 9, and the presidential Blue House cited the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s nuclear and missile threats as a key reason for the hasty deployment, according to Yonhap news agency reports.
The DPRK test-fired four ballistic missiles on Monday, after testing a new type of Pukguksong-2 ballistic missile on Feb. 12.
However, THAAD in South Korea has nothing to do with the DPRK's missile threats as the U.S. anti-missile system is designed to intercept missiles at an altitude of 40-150 km. Most of DPRK missiles targeting South Korea travel at an altitude of less than 40 km, and the DPRK has enough technology to avoid the THAAD's intercepting range.
Right after the THAAD deployment decision in July last year, Pyongyang successfully tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile that will easily make worthless the THAAD system in southeast South Korea.
In an apparent attempt to dupe voters into believing in a distorted hype, the Liberty Korea Party said it welcomed the rapid THAAD deployment under situations that recent DPRK missile launches threaten security in South Korea and Northeast Asia.
The Righteous Party also hailed the de-facto launch of the THAAD installation process, saying national security is an important issue that cannot be exchanged for anything. The party noted the deployment should be completed before the presidential race.
Yoo Seung-min, one of the two presidential contenders of the Righteous Party, said THAAD is a defensive weapon to defend South Korean people from the DPRK's nuclear and missile threats. He has insisted two to three THAAD batteries be deployed in his country.
Unlike the distorted hype, THAAD is aggressive in nature as the U.S. missile defense system boosts arms race and breaks regional strategic balance. The mutual assured destruction (MAD) will be broken, bringing nuclear weapons in the region that can break through the U.S. missile shield.
The main opposition Minjoo Party lashed at Prime Minister Hwang for overstepping his authority as acting leader, raising suspicion about political intention concealed behind the hasty push for THAAD deployment.
The minor opposition People's party urged the government to immediately stop the THAAD deployment, which is in violation of constitutional procedures.