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JH Ahn was an NK News contributor based in Seoul. He previously worked as an interpreter for United States Forces Korea.
The deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea came one step closer to reality on Monday afternoon, with the Lotte Group agreeing to a deal with the ROK government to provide a golf course for the deployment.
The agreement between the government and one of South Korea’s largest conglomerates comes after five months of discussions.
“The Ministry of the National Defense (MND) and Lotte Skyhill Seongju Country Club will sign an exchange contract (for the THAAD deployment site), possibly tomorrow,” the MND told NK News on Monday afternoon.
The ROK, since late September, had been pushing Lotte to allow the government to use the Skyhill Seongju Country Club as a deployment site for THAAD, the U.S.-made missile defense system.
While previous reports suggested that Lotte might receive military-owned land in exchange for handing over the golf course to the military, no details were given on Monday afternoon about whether this was still the case.
China has repeatedly warned Lotte not to take part in the implementation process, with a spokesman saying on Thursday that it is “resolutely opposed to such a deployment.”
“It sabotages the strategic security interests of the surrounding countries including China and Russia, and also breaks the strategic equilibrium in the region,” Colonel Ren Guoqiang, a spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense (MND) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) said.
A leading organ of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has argued that China’s government should sanction the Lotte Group should it agree to the land exchange deal with the ROK government.
“China makes up 29 percent of Lotte’s global market, and it is poised to respond to the South Korean enterprise, which has benefited greatly from China but harms the country’s national interests,” Haunqui (Global Times) wrote last Tuesday.
“Chinese media has given Lotte fair warning over THAAD… Once sanctions are imposed, we need to prepare for possible retaliations from South Korea. We need to make it clear whether other South Korean investments in China would be involved…”
Lotte’s public relations office told NK News on Monday afternoon that they had no comment regarding the decision.
A longtime expert said the deployment will now most likely be expedited, as it is now solely in the hands of Seoul and Washington.
The Skyhill Seongju Country Club‘s pre-existing infrastructure will considerably speed up the deployment process, Kim Min Seok, a senior researcher at the Korea Defense and Security Forum (KODEF) told NK News during a previous interview.
On Monday he said that the process could be shortened even more if the ROK government used its military engineering units to finish the project.
Featured Image: U.S. Army Official Flickr