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Lotte, South Korean military sign land swap deal to deploy THAAD: report

Lotte and South Korea's military signed on Tuesday a controversial land swap deal to enable authorities to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in a golf course owned by the company, China Central Television (CCTV) reported.

After the signing of the land swap deal, South Korea's defense ministry will accelerate the process of the deployment of the THAAD system, as the presidential election could be held ahead of the schedule, South Korean media reported, citing unnamed sources from the ministry.

Some experts deem that the acceleration of the THAAD deployment in South Korea is partly due to concerns that the next president may not support the land swap deal, which is objected by Beijing.

The presidential election in South Korea is set to be held in December 2017, but the date may be brought forward because of the final ruling on the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.

On Monday, South Korea's Constitutional Court heard the final arguments of Park and the National Assembly. Although the impeached president did not appear at the final hearing, she denied all the accusations against her in a statement, claiming that she has never abused her authority as president for herself and people around her.

The court is expected to announce its ruling by March 13, when acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi is set to retire. If the court upholds the impeachment and remove Park from office, South Korea will hold a presidential election within 60 days.

Previously, Park said that she will step down as president by end-April over the corruption scandal.

Meanwhile, Beijing has repeated its strong indignation to the land swap deal, which it calls a threat to regional stability.

At a regular news briefing on Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang warned that Beijing will "firmly take necessary measures" to protect its security interests, urging the US and South Korea to stop the deployment. He said that the introduction of the THAAD system to South Korea will badly break the regional strategic balance, impair the strategic security interests of the related countries including China in the region and is detrimental to the peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula. 

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