Hundreds of South Koreans protested Saturday against the deployment of a US missile defense system, a day after the visiting US Secretary of State reiterated that its installation would go ahead.
Rex Tillerson said in Seoul Friday that the United States and South Korea would "proceed with the installation" of the system, known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). Residents of Seongju County where the system will be deployed say it poses health and environmental hazards and argue that its presence could make them a priority target for North Korea.
About 2,000 residents of Seongju and a neighboring county, 275 kilometers (170 miles) southeast of Seoul, rallied with banners reading: "No THAAD but peace". About 2,000 riot police were mobilized to maintain order at the march and stop protesters reaching the installation site.
Washington and Seoul say the system is for purely defensive purposes, but China fears it could undermine its own nuclear deterrent and has reacted with fury, imposing a series of measures seen as economic retaliation on the South.
North Korea has a long-standing ambition to become a nuclear power and has conducted several atomic tests in defiance of the international community and UN sanctions.Earlier this month, Pyongyang test fired a salvo of missiles that fell in waters off Japan.