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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
Leading presidential candidate Moon Jae-in has suggested that the planned deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery would go ahead under his administration, in an interview with the local news agency Newsis on Sunday.
In an apparent reversal of his previous position, Moon reiterated it was “desirable” to postpone the decision of the THAAD deployment until the next South Korean government begins its term, but seemed to suggest that he would not cancel the agreement if elected President.
“I am not saying that [the issue] should be handed over to the next government with the policy of canceling the decision of the THAAD deployment,” Moon said during the interview. “I don’t think it’s easy to cancel the agreement which has already been made between Korea and the United States.”
Maintaining that there are “both gains and losses” in THAAD deployment, Moon said the “rough-and-ready process” through which the decision was made brought about a “stronger backlash” from Russia and China.
Moon on Monday reiterated he had taken “no specific side” on the deployment of THAAD system, when asked if he had reversed his position on the issue.
But Moon has previously argued that THAAD deployment should be reconsidered. On October 9 he called for the “temporary suspension of all procedures” for the THAAD deployment and urged the government to put more diplomatic effort into dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear arms.
South Korea’s ruling Saenuri Party and other potential presidential hopefuls from the main opposition Minjoo Party criticized Moon for his apparent shift in opinion.
Chung Woo-taik, a floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, said on Monday that Moon had done a “flip-flop” on the issue of THAAD deployment.
“[Moon] has rocked back and forth on the core issues of ROK-U.S. alliance and [the South’s] defense without revealing a way to stop North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations…,” Chung said.
Potential presidential contenders from the Minjoo Party, which is yet to nominate a candidate, also attacked Moon.
THAAD deployment is “only of benefit to the United States,” Lee Jae-myung, Mayor of Seongnam City in Gyeonggi Province and the third most popular presidential candidate, said on Sunday.
“Moving back and forth on the issue without providing an enough explanation for this serious problem, which has a profound effect on the destiny of the Korean Peninsula, confuses the public and especially supporters of opposition parties.”
Mayor of Seoul Metropolitan Government Park Won-soon also voiced opposition to the THAAD deployment on Monday.
“[He] shouldn’t change his words based political calculation to earn more votes,” Park, who announced a presidential bid in early January, said, not specifying which candidate he was referring to.
Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, seen as a likely presidential candidate for the scandal-ridden President Park’s Saenuri Party, told reporters on Sunday he supported deployment.
Ban said the South Korean government’s decision on the THAAD deployment was “appropriate” as the Korean Peninsula is “in a quasi-war-like state.”
South Korea’s Ministry of Defense (MND) announced on Monday that acquiring the site of the THAAD deployment may be delayed.
The new deployment site for the THAAD system was finalized in September as the Lotte Skyhill Seongju Country Club, a golf course owned by one of South Korea’s major conglomerates (chaebol) in Gyeongsangbuk-do Province.
The MND said appraisal and assessment of the deployment site finished last week, and that the administrative process was under way to exchange Lotte’s golf course with state-owned military land.
“There is a possibility it will be slightly postponed,” Moon Sang-gyun, an MND spokesperson, told reporters. “Lotte will hold a board meeting to approve final assessment fee. I believe that the board meeting will be probably held soon as it hasn’t yet been held.”
Featured Image: Moon Jae-in’s Facebook