June 8 (UPI) -- A U.S. senator who recently met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in expressed concern over the delay in the deployment of additional THAAD launchers to a site where two launchers are in operation.
"This THAAD missile defense system for medium-range missiles seems so obvious to me, for the people living in South Korea to protect them and to protect our forces who are there in their defense," Durbin said. "I'm troubled by the fact that it is now going to be resubmitted for political debate in Korea as to whether or not they will accept our $923 million investment in missile defense for their country. I can't follow their logic here."
Durbin was referring to a decision of the Moon administration to conduct an expanded environmental impact assessment of the former golf course where the U.S. missile defense system is being deployed.
THAAD can defend parts of South Korea against incoming missiles, and can target medium-range missiles headed for the Pacific and the United States.
Plans for a more comprehensive assessment in abidance with local laws were scrapped when THAAD was deployed overnight in April, a move that took the South Korean public by surprise.
Protesters, mostly local residents, oppose the deployment, and China, South Korea's biggest trading partner, may have placed sanctions against South Korean conglomerate Lotte for supplying Seoul with the THAAD site.
Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, called for a "quick and thorough review" that addresses environmental concerns in South Korea.
South Korean officials had said the deployment of additional launchers could be delayed by a year during the assessment.
Moon's THAAD policy is inviting criticism from South Korea's conservatives, who accused the recently elected president of "giving up on South Korea's security," local newspaper Kukmin Ilbo reported.
"Delaying the [additional] deployment of THAAD is no different from giving up on [South Korea's] security," said Liberty Korea Party spokesman Rep. Kim Myung-yeon, while pointing out North Korea has conducted missile tests five times since Moon assumed office.
"President Moon must immediately call for the swift deployment of THAAD and end the exhaustive controversy," Kim said.