SEONGJU, South Korea, Sept. 6 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. military will deploy additional missile interceptor launchers to its base in a southern town early Thursday despite strong opposition from residents and activists, according to local villagers.
The residents' group in Seonju said Wednesday they have confirmed the information through various channels about the planned deployment of four launchers of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system at 2 a.m. on Thursday, in addition to two that are already installed.
"We think the authorities will notify the residents of the THAAD launcher installation plan this evening," the group said.
They oppose the deployment, arguing the THAAD battery could turn the village, some 300 kilometers south of Seoul, into a military target, and that electromagnetic waves emanating from its powerful radar could cause health and environmental problems.
Signs of the imminent deployment were detected in the morning when some 360 police troops -- much more than the usual 200 staff -- were dispatched to the THAAD deployment site apparently to prepare for possible clashes with protesters.
The deployment process has gathered steam as Pyongyang has continued to launch provocations, including two long-range missile tests in July and its sixth and most powerful nuke experiment to date on Sunday.
On Monday, the environment ministry gave conditional consent to the deployment, removing a major administrative hurdle for the THAAD operation.
Soon after Pyongyang launched another long-range missile July 28, President Moon Jae-in ordered the "temporary" deployment of additional THAAD launchers.
A THAAD battery consists of six truck-mounted launchers, 48 interceptors (eight per launcher), a fire control and communications unit, and an AN/TPY-2 radar.
The full deployment of the missile defense system has been suspended pending an environmental impact assessment, which the Moon administration views as a legitimate domestic procedure for any military deployment.
The deployment has been a tricky diplomatic issue as China has strenuously opposed it, arguing it could bolster America's military presence and undermine its security interests. Seoul and Washington have claimed it is a defensive measure that only targets the North.