Four luanchers were delivered without the president`s knowledge. The Defence minister admits the presence of launchers and radar systems only after an internal investigation. The new batteries are stored at a US military base waiting for deployment. However, the South Korean parliament is set to decide over the issue. China`s irritation weighs heavily on the affair as Beijing ponders retaliation.
Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - South Korea`s military have deliberately withheld information from President Moon Jae-in about the delivery of four additional THAAD launchers.
The latter, which are set to be deployed to counter North Korea`s missile threat, were brought in without being reported to the new government, and are currently stored at a US base.
Top brass who briefed Moon's national security adviser last week deliberately kept silent about the information, Moon's office said.
Documents submitted to the president shortly after he came to office this month were redacted to remove mention of four new rocket launchers for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system, which South Korea approved last year to protect itself against threats from North Korea.
China has strongly opposed the deployment, claiming that it threatened its national security. Two missile launchers have already been in place in the southern county of Seongju, but the existence of four more had not been announced.
All military officials involved in the production of the report admitted these key parts were removed in the editing process, said Moon`s spokesman Yoon Young Chan.
Defence Minister Han Min Koo eventually admitted the presence of the new launchers when pressed by Moon in a phone conversation on Tuesday, according to Yoon.
Han was appointed by ousted president Park Geun Hye. His successor is yet to be named.
The new launchers arrived in the South before Moon took office on May 10, Moon`s office said.
No specific reason was given for the omission by military chiefs, but Moon has previously expressed ambivalence over THAAD, especially in light of Chinese objections, and Beijing`s threat of political and economic retaliation.
The new president said the deployment should be discussed and approved by parliament before being fully rolled out.
Moon wants the vet public support for THAAD, saying that Park administration had failed to get public backing on this aspect of the country`s security policy.
Each THAAD battery has six launchers on a truck, 48 interceptors (eight per launcher), a fire and communication control system and an AN/TPY2 radar.
The Catholic Church of South Korea has long opposed the THAAD deployment because it does not want the peninsula to become the centre of a new Cold War.