Spotlight: Protests continue over THAAD in S. Korea on liberation day from Japan's colonial rule

SEOUL, Aug. 15 -- Splits continued among South Korean people over the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in their soil on Monday that marks the 71st anniversary of the Korean Peninsula's liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

On one side of the capital Seoul, civic group activists called for the Japanese government's sincere apology and repent over its past militarism.

Under the 1910-1945 Japanese colonial rule, Korean people suffered from numerous atrocities such as forced recruitment of Korean women as sex slaves for Japanese military brothels and compulsory labor for Japan's munitions factories.

Defying such civilian calls and deep regrets from neighboring countries, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering once again to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, a symbol of the militaristic Japan as it enshrines 14 Class-A convicted war criminals along with millions of war dead.

On the other side of the capital, thousands of South Koreans gathered to protest against Seoul and Washington's abrupt decision last month to house one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in southeastern South Korea by the end of next year.

Protesters worried that if the U.S. missile defense battery is deployed as planned, it would usher in an era of so-called New Cold War and eventually bring in a fierce arms race in the region. They called for dialogue to replace the armistice treaty after the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War with a peace treaty between the two Koreas.

Anti-THAAD activists marched down the streets across central Seoul, raising high a variety of placards that read, "Let's bring peace and reunification to the Korean Peninsula," "Opposing to THAAD deployment on the Korean Peninsula," and "Resume inter-Korean dialogue."

President Park Geun-hye said in her speech to mark the 71th liberation day anniversary that her THAAD deployment decision was a defensive measure to protect people from the DPRK's nuclear and missile threats, reiterating her insistence and showing her reluctance to hear the growing dissent from people and neighboring countries.

China and Russia have strongly opposed the U.S. missile defense system in South Korea as THAAD's X-band radar can snoop on Chinese and Russian territories. Experts here said the THAAD battery, composed of six mobile launchers, 48 interceptors, a radar and a fire control unit, is incapable of shooting down more than 1,000 DPRK missiles targeting South Korea.

Criticizing the president's speech, the main opposition Minju Party said it was miserable for Park to maintain her stance that she will not allow for any dissent or objection to the THAAD deployment decision despite repeated calls from people and the opposition parties for communications.

The casting vote-exercising People's Party also regarded Park's speech as her routine attitude of non-communications, saying the unilateral THAAD deployment decision resulted in rising diplomatic security threats in the region and disorders and splits among South Korean people.