The main opposition Liberty Korea Party accused President Moon Jae-in on Saturday of sending the wrong signal that the U.S. THAAD missile defense system can be withdrawn at any time, a day after Moon said this week's deployment of additional launchers is only tentative.
South Korea has installed the four additional THAAD launchers in the southeastern town of Seongju, completing the deployment of a full six-launcher battery, despite fierce protests from villagers and liberal-leaning critics.
On Friday night, Moon issued a statement asking for people's understanding, saying the deployment was the best possible decision he could take in the current situation in order to protect the lives and safety of the people from North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.
Moon also said, however, that the deployment is tentative and a final decision on whether to keep the battery permanently stationed will be made after a thorough assessment of the battery's impact on the environment.
The opposition party criticized Moon for highlighting the deployment's tentativeness.
"President Moon only repeated the words 'tentative deployment,'" Rep. Kang Hyo-sang, spokesman for the conservative LKP, said in a briefing. "This is a double play that sends the signal that THAAD can be pulled out at any time."
Kang said the decision to deploy THAAD was the only praiseworthy thing the Moon administration has done so far, but Friday's statement from Moon was full of excuses toward anti-THAAD forces and China, which has strongly protested the deployment.
Kang also said Moon should have offered an apology on behalf of some ruling party lawmakers who have spread groundless rumors about the negative effects that THAAD can have on the environment and human health in an attempt to derail its deployment.
Hong Joon-pyo, the leader of LKP, said his party will continue to seek the redeployment of U.S. tactical nukes in South Korea.
"Over 60 percent of citizens are in favor of the redeployment of tactical nukes," Hong said during a rally in southern Seoul. "We are not able to survive without going nuclear against (North Korea's nuclear ambitions)."
After North Korea conducted an intercontinental ballistic missile test in July and its sixth nuclear experiment Sunday, conservative parties demanded that Seoul seek the redeployment of U.S. tactical nukes or shared control of them with Washington.
In particular, the LKP has stressed the need for Seoul to seek a "nuclear balance of power" with Pyongyang, which it says now enjoys a "nuclear monopoly."
It plans to send a delegation to Washington next Wednesday for a four-day visit to promote its drive for the redeployment of U.S. nuclear weapons, which were withdrawn from South Korea in the early 1990s.
A Gallup Korea survey showed earlier that 60 percent of South Korean adults back the idea of their country going nuclear, while 35 percent are against it. (Yonhap)