Environmental assessment clears way for US THAAD in South Korea

The defense ministry said a South Korean environmental impact assessment of a U.S. missile defence system found "insignificant" electromagnetic radiation relative to safety standards.
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is seen in Seongju, South Korea, June 13, 2017.
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is seen in Seongju, South Korea, June 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File photo

SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean environmental impact assessment of a U.S. missile defence system found "insignificant" electromagnetic radiation relative to safety standards, the defence ministry said on Wednesday, clearing the way for its permanent deployment.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system installed in South Korea in 2017 generated a maximum level of electromagnetic radiation below 0.2% of the safety standards, the ministry said. China and some residents had complained about its placement in the southeastern air base of Seongju.

"The latest environmental impact assessment is a preceding step for the normalisation of the Seongju base," the ministry said in a statement.

The study result is expected to clear the way for additional infrastructure construction for the system. Officials have said THAAD could not be operated at its full capacity amid protests from nearby residents who raised concerns over the system's impact on their health.

China has also angrily reacted to the installation, contending that the system's powerful radar could peer into its airspace.

The United States and South Korea have said THAAD is for self-defence, meant to counter North Korea's evolving threats.

The nuclear-armed North has been testing various weapons, including its biggest intercontinental ballistic missile, ramping up tension with the South and its main ally, the United States.

(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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