Watch: South Korean protesters scuffle with police over US anti-missile system ahead of inter-Korean summit
South Korean protesters scuffled with police on Monday (April 23) during a demonstration against a plan to bring some 22 construction vehicles into a U.S. anti-missile system base, in what could become a political risk for President Moon Jae-in ahead of the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade.
About 200 protesters in the southern city of Seongju blocked the road to oppose the deployment of construction trucks, equipment and workers into the site hosting the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.
"A peace treaty is being discussed... There is no more North Korea (nuclear threat) as an excuse (for deployment of THAAD). We can neither understand nor accept construction plans to operate the THAAD," the THAAD residents' committee said in a statement.
As recently stated by one of the opponent's to the deployment of US anti-missile systems, Justice Party MP Kim Jong-dae, "we must approach the THAAD issue not from the standpoint of protests around the base, but from the point of view of a strategic atmosphere of peace, including the development of inter-Korean and North Korean-US relations."
The system is aimed at defending against an attack by North Korea which has been pursuing nuclear and missile programs in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, prompting threats of war from both the North and the United States.
The Defence Ministry said it is checking the exact number of residents injured from Monday's scuffle, although "no one seems to have been severely injured so far," an official said.
Taking turns in small groups, residents of Soseong-ri have been blocking the only road to the site since the middle of last year, so that no military vehicles enter the deployment site, forcing the U.S. military to use helicopters instead to shuttle fuel, food and other supplies.
The US Army's THAAD system that has been deployed in South Korea under the 2016 deal between the two countries is designed to shoot down short- to medium-range ballistic missiles in the terminal phase of their approach to a target.
China strongly opposes the THAAD deployment as it believes it could be used as an instrument against the country.