South Korea suspends US anti-missile deployment system pending environmental review

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea will hold off on installing remaining components of a U.S. anti-missile defense system until it completes an assessment of the system's impact on the environment, the country's presidential office said on Wednesday.

The move could mean substantial delays in a full deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea, as the review may take well over a year, according to a senior official at the presidential Blue House.

South Korea said last week four more launchers had been introduced, months after the controversial battery was deployed in March with just two of its maximum load of six launchers.

North Korea's Missiles

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North Korea's Missiles
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North Korea's Missiles
The scene of the intermediate-range ballistic missile Pukguksong-2's launch test in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) May 22, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
The long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) is launched during a test in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
Missiles are driven past the stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other high ranking officials during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of North Korea's founding father, Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang, April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Sue-Lin Wong
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People cheer as a missile is driven past the stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other high ranking officials during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country's founding father Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Military vehicles carry missiles with characters reading 'Pukkuksong' during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country's founding father, Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a ballistic rocket launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the KPA on the spot in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang March 7, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERSATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A fire drill of ballistic rockets by Hwasong artillery units of the KPA Strategic Force is pictured in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 6, 2016. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
FILE PHOTO - An underwater test-firing of a strategic submarine ballistic missile is seen in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on April 24, 2016. KCNA/File Photo via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
A view of a firing contest among multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) batteries selected from large combined units of the KPA, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on December 21, 2016. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
Ballistic rocket is seen launching during a drill by the Hwasong artillery units of the KPA Strategic Force in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on July 21, 2016. KCNA/via ReutersATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS.Ã TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A test launch of ground-to-ground medium long-range ballistic rocket Hwasong-10 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A new multiple launch rocket system is test fired in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang March 4, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA
A rocket is launched during a demonstration of a new large-caliber multiple rocket launching system attended by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (not pictured) at an unknown location, in this undated file photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 22, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA/Files ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A rocket is fired during a drill by anti-aircraft units of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang November 3, 2015. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.
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The additional launchers had been brought into the deployment site in the southeastern region of Seongju without being reported to the new government or to the public, new President Moon Jae-in's office said last week, asking for a probe into why it was not informed of the move by South Korea's defense ministry.

The four launchers have yet to be installed and made operational.

"It doesn't make sense to withdraw the two initial launchers which had already been deployed and installed, but additional installation will be decided after the environmental impact assessment is over," the administration official told reporters on Wednesday.

SEE ALSO: North Korea slams President Trump's Paris accord exit as 'height of egoism'

"Whether we must urgently move forward with additional installment by ignoring legal transparency and due procedure is a question."

The Pentagon said it would continue to work transparently with Seoul but did not signal any expectation that the decision to deploy THAAD would be upended.

"The U.S. trusts the (South Korean government's) official stance that the THAAD deployment was an alliance decision and it will not be reversed," a Pentagon spokesman said.

"We look forward to continuing our close coordination with the Moon administration," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Anna Richey-Allen said when asked about the South Korean decision.

RELATED: Children in North Korea

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Children in North Korea
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Children in North Korea

From an early age, kids living outside the capital city of Pyongyang are made to work on North Korean farms. Forced labor accounts for a large portion of the country's economic output.

REUTERS/Damir Sagolj 

Some reports have stated that workers who don't comply can be sent to concentration camps as punishment.

 REUTERS/Damir Sagolj 

SourceHuman Rights Watch

In less developed regions, the trek to school can be fraught with construction projects and dangerous terrain. School buses, when villages have them, are often repurposed dump trucks.

 REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Sourceearth nutshell

For those without parents, life in North Korean orphanages can be especially brutal. Even the children who get adopted risk rejection later in life if their parents can't support themselves.

 REUTERS/Damir Sagolj 

SourceCNN

Meanwhile, families that have a bit more money can afford small luxuries, like traditional North Korean clothes.

 REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

But money doesn't free a family from political obligations. Many still worship the country's leaders and make regular trips to the national monuments that honor them, children in tow.

 REUTERS/Kyodo 

Last June, Kim Jong Un organized a performance titled, "We Are the Happiest in the World" — a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Korean Children's Union.

 REUTERS/KCNA 

Indoctrination starts even earlier, however — sometimes in kindergarten. Young kids learn anti-American messages and use toy rifles and grenades to attack cartoon images of soldiers.

REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

SourceWashington Post

On International Children's Day, a mock military parade in the capital city of Pyongyang features kids dressed up as members of the North Korean army.

REUTERS/Kyodo 

The conditions inside schools aren't always sanitary. One kindergarten is located inside the Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang textile mill.

REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

But such is the nature of inequality in North Korea. Families that don't live in poverty can give their kids a better chance at fun, joy-filled upbringings.

 REUTERS/Jacky Chen 

For instance, some of the most high-achieving children train at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace, a facility that provides lessons in foreign languages, computing skills, and sports.

 REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Some have described Mangyongdae as supremely strange. One visitor to an art class never saw the kids actually touch pen to paper, despite the professional-level illustrations presented before them.

 REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

SourceAbandoned Kansai

Run by the Korean Youth Corps, Mangyongdae reportedly accommodates up to 5,400 children at a time in its massive concrete building.

 REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

SourceAbandoned Kansai

Their performances are grandiose extensions of the North Korean cult of personality. Themes of honor and greatness are pervasive throughout.

 REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

During a performance for foreign journalists last May, for instance, many of the choral, dance, and acrobatic routines had heavy political undertones.

 REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Nevertheless, coercion and fear-mongering come quickly in adulthood. People's childhood years may be their only opportunity to live somewhat care-free.

 REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

 The children aren't old enough to understand the propaganda they're being fed or know how deplorable their living conditions are.The children aren't old enough to understand the propaganda they're being fed or know how deplorable their living conditions are.

REUTERS/David Gray

It only lasts a short while, but childhood may be the time when North Koreans have the most in common with the rest of the world.

 REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

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U.S. defense company Lockheed Martin Corp is the lead contractor for the THAAD system.

North Korea has conducted three ballistic missile tests since Moon took office, maintaining its accelerated pace of missile and nuclear-related activities since the beginning of last year in defiance of U.N. sanctions and U.S. pressure.

During his successful election campaign, Moon had pledged to review the previous South Korean government's decision to deploy THAAD, saying the deployment was rushed without assessing its environmental impact or seeking parliamentary approval.

SEE ALSO: Mattis warns of 'clear and present danger' North Korea poses

Moon's decision to order an investigation into the deployment came amid signs of easing tensions between South Korea and China, North Korea's sole major diplomatic ally.

The decision to deploy the system was made by Moon's conservative predecessor Park Geun-hye, who was impeached and thrown out of office in a corruption scandal that engulfed South Korea's business and political elite.

Moon took office on May 10 without a transition period because a snap presidential election was held just two months after Park was ousted. He inherited her defense minister, along with the rest of the cabinet, and has yet to name his own.

Moon has said his order for the probe at the defense ministry was purely a domestic measure and not aimed at stopping the deployment, which has drawn angry protests from China.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Soyoung Kim and James dalgleish)

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