June 1 (UPI) — South Korea disputed local press reports claiming a visiting U.S. senator said portions of the U.S. defense budget going toward the deployment of the missile defense system THAAD could be reallocated if deployment is overturned.
A spokesman for Seoul’s presidential Blue House told reporters Thursday he did not recall whether U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., had said if South Korea does not want to continue with THAAD deployment the defense budget could be assigned elsewhere.
“That portion [of Durbin’s statement] did not happen,” the South Korean spokesman said, according to local news service EDaily. “I have not heard it nor do I recall such a statement.”
The spokesman then said Durbin had “expressed surprise” with President Moon Jae-in regarding the controversy around THAAD deployment.
Durbin had reportedly said THAAD deployment is being made possible by “$923 million” of U.S. taxpayer money.
It was then Moon had said he “does not take the decision lightly,” and Durbin agreed an environmental assessment in accordance with reasonable and legal procedures should be carried out, according to the Blue House.
THAAD was deployed at a former golf course in Seongju, central South Korea, before the assessment was finished.
In a separate statement, Seoul’s foreign ministry said the government is “working closely with the United States in the spirit of the alliance” regarding THAAD, and “enhancing mutual understanding through genuine communication with China,” Yonhap reported.
“The focus of the issue of THAAD deployment, is that there was a lack of public discussion that included the right of the people to know,” said ministry spokesman Cho Jun-hyuk. “We expect a discussion at the National Assembly that will add to democratic and procedural legitimacy.”
Reports of Moon’s “extreme shock” over the installation of four unreported THAAD launchers are raising hopes in China the decision could be overturned.
Zheng Jiyong, a Korea specialist at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times the latest development could lead to a reversal because it demonstrates the “lack of legitimacy of the THAAD decision.”
Civic groups in South Korea opposed to the THAAD decision are calling for “disciplinary action” against South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo and the former chief of the National Security Office Kim Kwan-jin, according to Newsis.
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