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Frontrunner in S. Korean election pledged to review THAAD deployment

Frontrunner in S. Korean election pledged to review THAAD deploymentAs South Korea is preparing for the presidential election, the contenders are disputing over the deployment of a U.S. missile defence system in the country, Yonhap news agency.

During the debate hosted by four cable broadcasters, four candidates were seeking to become the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party.

The front-runner Moon Jae-in and three other candidates united in opposing other parties' proposal to revise the Constitution before or concurrently with the May 9 presidential election.

They also offered a range of policies to reduce economic and social inequality and improve the well-being of ordinary citizens by increasing government spending and creating jobs.

But their views divided over the crucial national defence issue, which left South Korea walking on a thin line between beefing up national security and the U.S. alliance and trying to limit the impact on ties with China.

Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung called for the cancellation of the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system saying it will have a limited role in defending against North Korea's threat and even increase the danger of war.

Also citing the economic tension with China, Lee claimed that Seoul should scrap the deployment. China has been protesting Seoul and Washington's decision to deploy the THAAD system, rolling out economic retaliations, such as banning tour agencies from selling trips to South Korea.

Frontrunner Moon Jae-in did not raise explicit opposition to its deployment but claimed the issue should be handled by the next administration.

"It is not an issue that can be concluded just by saying yes or no," Moon said.

The former head of the party said he can maintain the Seoul-Washington alliance and the economic cooperation with China at the same time. He also urged Beijing to end its retaliations against South Korean firms.

South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung also vowed to maintain a healthy relationship with Washington and Beijing at the same time but also claimed that the agreement between South Korea and the U.S. should be respected.

During the debate, which also featured Goyang Mayor Choi Sung, the three minor candidates focused their attacks on Moon, seeking a last-minute turnaround to catch up with the most popular candidate.

Amid the lack of prominent contenders from the conservative bloc, An and Lee are seen as more realistic challengers to Moon than contenders from the Liberty Korea Party and the Bareun Party.

South Korea will hold an early presidential election on May 9 as the Constitutional Court removed Park Geun-hye from the office last week.
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