South Korea has confirmed that the site for a United States anti-missile system will be a golf course in the south-east of the country. The American defence system will be used to counter nuclear threats from North Korea, which recently conducted its fifth and largest nuclear test.
Washington and Seoul agreed to place the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) in Seongju earlier this year as a "defensive measure". However, local residents strongly protested against the decision due to health and environmental concerns. This prompted the US and South Korea to look elsewhere and the golf course is said to be the "final" decision.
"We have conducted a simulation-based evaluation on three alternative sites in Seongju," Moon Sang-gyun, a spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defence, told Yonhap News Agency on 30 September. "The test results showed the Lotte Skyhill Country Club is the most optimal site for Thaad in terms of six principles."
The six principles are operational effectiveness, resident health, infrastructure, safety considerations, construction time and cost, and the preparation time for installation. The golf course has also been selected due to its high altitude and easy accessibility for military vehicles, Reuters reported. It is expected that Thaad will be deployed to the site by 2017 as it is already equipped with the necessary infrastructure.
However, residents in the nearby town of Gimcheon have also declared a "full-scale protest" if the golf course plan goes ahead. Additionally, concerns have been raised about how Seoul will secure the budget to purchase the golf course, which could be priced at 100 billion won (£70m, $91m).
Tensions have been rising in the Korean Peninsula since Kim Jong-un's latest nuclear test in September, with the US promising "serious consequences". The North Korean dictatorship has since lashed out at the US and South Korea a number of times, threatening them with a nuclear war.
"US imperialists and the [South Korean President] Park Geun Hye group of traitors should not forget even [for] a moment that our revolutionary armed forces are ready to fight a decisive battle to thoroughly foil the reckless military moves for... a preemptive strike at the North," a spokesperson for the Korean People's Army said on 23 September. "Time will prove what disastrous consequences will be entailed by the reckless remarks made by such half-wits as Park Geun Hye."
North Korea's army has warned that any nuclear warheads fired at South Korea would "completely reduce Seoul to ashes". On 13 September, it also issued threats against the US, stating that they were "fully ready to mercilessly strike" them and "wipe them out to the last man".