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Politics

Villagers, China protest additional THAAD launchers in South Korea

As residents talk of betrayal, Beijing calls for battery's removal

SEOUL -- Hundreds of residents in Seongju on Thursday protested the deployment of four more U.S. anti-missile launchers in their rural, southeastern village.

Seongju, famous for its melons, is now gaining attention for a missile defense system that U.S. forces have installed on a golf course there.

On Thursday, villagers blocked the entrance to the facility with their trucks and cars, arguing that the anti-missile system's radar will harm their health.

The launchers and radar are part of something called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD.

Police eventually removed the protesters, and U.S. Forces Korea successfully installed the additional launchers.

The base now has six functioning launchers. One THAAD battery consists of six launchers and an X-band radar.

"We will not give up until we pull out THAAD," said six civic groups opposing the U.S. anti-missile system during a press conference in Seongju. "The Moon Jae-in government betrayed people."

The deployment came four days after North Korea conducted its largest of six underground nuclear explosions in Gilju, in the northeastern part of the isolated country. Pyongyang has also been test-firing mid- and long-range ballistic missiles the past few months, including one that flew over northern Japan. In addition, it has been threatening to attack the U.S. mainland, Japan and South Korea.

The THAAD deployment has also invited strong criticism from China, which says the battery threatens its security. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the battery will not address the security concerns of the relevant countries, that it undermines the regional strategic balance and jeopardizes the strategic security interests of China and other regional players.

"It will exacerbate the tensions and confrontation on the Korean Peninsula and complicate the Korean Peninsula issue," Geng told reporters. "The Chinese side strongly urges the U.S. and the Republic of Korea to value the security interests and concerns of China and other regional countries and immediately stop the relevant deployment and remove the relevant equipment."

Due to the rising tensions between the two countries, South Korean companies in China -- Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, Lotte Shopping and the AmorePacific Group among them -- are suffering from sharply declining sales in the world's most populous nation.

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