Thousands of South Koreans have protested against a planned deployment of US-built THAAD missile system in Seongju which is home to 40,000 people.
The protest rally on Wednesday was held as South Korea and the US chose the southeastern county as the site for the deployment.
Protesters held up red banners reading “We absolutely oppose THAAD deployment,” referring to the sophisticated Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system.
Reports also said county head Kim Hang-Gon and local council members had launched a hunger strike to contest the proposed site.
The location of the battery in Seongju, 296 km southeast of Seoul, would help “more firmly secure the safety of our people in one half to two third of South Korea’s entire territory,” the South’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The system will dramatically increase the capacity to defend key state facilities like nuclear power plants and oil refining installations as well as the South Korea-US alliance forces,” the ministry added.
Washington and Seoul reached a formal agreement on Friday to deploy the advanced US missile system on the Korean Peninsula in a bid to counter alleged threats by Pyongyang after formal consultations began in March.
Following the deal, Pyongyang vowed “physical response,” threatening the South with a “ruthless retaliatory strike.”
“There will be physical response measures from us as soon as the location and time that the invasionary tool for US world supremacy, THAAD, will be brought into South Korea are confirmed,” the North Korean military said Monday.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry shot back, vowing “decisive and strong punishment from our military” to any “rash and foolish action.”
In an effort to allay concerns from Russia and China, South Korean President Park Geun-hye also said the THAAD system was not intended to target any third country other than the threat from the North.
China has said the system exceeds the security needs of the Korean peninsula. On Saturday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi suggested there was a “conspiracy behind this move.”
Beijing says the deployment of the system will harm regional peace and do nothing to help denuclearize the volatile peninsula.
Russia has also said the missile system tends to undermine stability in the region and “most negatively affect global strategic stability.”
Moscow and Beijing view the planned move as an attempt to put their military facilities within the range of US radars.
THAAD has been designed to intercept ballistic missiles inside or just outside the atmosphere during their final phase of flight.