(ATTN: UPDATES with agreement in paras 4-6; CHANGES headline)
SEONGJU, South Korea, Nov. 27 (Yonhap) -- The defense ministry's latest attempt to bring non-weapon materials and construction equipment onto a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) base in central South Korea on Friday ran into fierce protests from local residents and civic activists opposed to the deployment of the American missile defense system.
About 70 residents and activists gathered on a bridge leading to the base for the THAAD system in the central town of Seongju, about 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, to block the approach of dump trucks carrying daily necessities for base troops and construction equipment and materials to be used to improve their living facilities.
Beginning at noon, about 600 riot police attempted to disperse the protesters, who tied themselves to ladder-like structures installed on the bridge and shouted various slogans against THAAD, but halted the operation about one hour later after an activist climbed up a nearby cliff and threatened to jump into a valley.
The defense ministry mobilized 26 dump trucks for the transportation.
After hours of standoff and negotiations, residents and activists agreed to the passage of only 16 trucks carrying basic necessities for base troops, the ministry and police said, noting shipments of construction materials were not allowed onto the base.
The protesters also agreed to stop their sit-in after the trucks, some of them carrying waste, depart from the base.
Earlier on Oct. 22, a similar attempt was fiercely resisted by the residents and activists, but the defense ministry managed to complete the transportation of construction equipment and other supplies after riot police dispersed the protesters.
As an integral part of the U.S.-led missile defense system, THAAD is designed to shoot down short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles at a high altitude in their terminal phase using a hit-to-kill method.
South Korea hosted the U.S. battery in 2016, which led to strong opposition from China and economic retaliatory measures. Seoul and Washington have stressed that the system aims only to better cope with the growing missile threats posed by North Korea.
Seongju residents have long been opposed to the stationing of the battery in their village, citing environmental and other concerns. They have often clashed violently with police as they tried to block new equipment and other supplies from entering the base, forcing the U.S. military to use air transportation to move supplies.