New South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced on June 7 that deployment of four additional U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile launchers would be suspended pending an environmental review. After taking office May 10, Moon said he had not been informed of the presence of the launchers on South Korean soil for weeks and ordered an investigation into why the Defense Ministry withheld this information. Moon has been critical of the rushed deployment of two launchers before his predecessor’s impeachment earlier this year, arguing that the decision should have been left for the incoming administration. Although the four additional launchers would have brought the battery to full strength, the two initial launchers will continue to function. Each launcher is equipped with eight interceptors designed to defend against incoming missiles.
Moon, who campaigned on fostering dialogue with North Korea, sought to ease concerns about diverging policies with Washington. “My order for a probe on THAAD is purely a domestic measure, and I want to be clear that it is not about trying to change the existing decision or sending a message to the United States,” he told U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) during a May 31 meeting in Seoul. U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis recently expressed confidence that the United States could address Moon’s concerns.—TYLER ROGERS