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South Korea's Moon Orders Probe After Missile Shield Surprise

  • President ‘shocked’ by presence of four additional launchers
  • Moon had sought review of U.S. system during election campaign

South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, ordered an investigation into how the final components of a controversial U.S. missile shield had arrived in the country without his knowledge.

The president initiated the probe after learning that a complete set of six launchers were on South Korean soil, Moon’s spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, told a news conference Tuesday. Previous Defense Ministry statements -- including a briefing given to the president last week -- had confirmed the deployment of only two launchers for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or Thaad.

“Moon found this very shocking” and called Defense Minister Han Min-koo to confirm that the four launchers were already in the country, Yoon told reporters. How they were deployed, who made the decision and why the information was kept from citizens and the new government were questions that would be investigated, he said.

Moon’s predecessor, Park Geun-hye, approved the Thaad deployment, which she said was necessary to protect South Korea from growing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea. During his election campaign, Moon criticized the decision as undemocratic and called for a review and parliamentary debate on the issue. He also sought to gain the understanding of China, which opposes the deployment, citing security concerns.

The first two mobile launchers arrived in South Korea in March and were deployed in Seongju county, southeast of Seoul. A single Thaad unit consists of six mobile launchers and 48 interceptor missiles, along with ground control and radar systems, according to the defense ministry’s website.

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