SEOUL, May 18 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) Commander Gen. Paul LaCamera has called for "unfettered" access to its THAAD missile defense unit here, stressing its absence would undermine the alliance's ability to defend South Korea.
In a written statement to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense this week, LaCamera made the call, as access to the unit in the southern county of Seongju remains impeded by a set of obstacles, including protesters against the installation of the battery.
Since the unit was placed in Seongju in 2017, it has had the status of a "temporary installation" pending South Korea's environmental impact assessment -- another hindrance to its full-capacity operation.
"Despite significant progress in increasing access to the site over the last year, unfettered access is required to fully ensure logistical support at the site and improve the quality of life for service members stationed there," LaCamera said.
"Limited access also slows the pace of construction projects on-site, which is critical for maintaining the system's capabilities, crew training and upgrades. All of this hinders the alliance's ability to operate this defensive system and defend the ROK people," he added. ROK stands for the South's official name, Republic of Korea.
The commander also pointed out the North's continued push to enhance missile capabilities to put the South, the United States and Japan "at risk."
"The DPRK continues to pursue capabilities to hold our Korean and Japanese allies at risk with short- and medium-range missiles, hold U.S. strategic bases within the region at risk with intermediate range missiles and hold at risk the U.S. with its intercontinental ballistic missile program," he said.
DPRK stands for the North's official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Touching on the North's launch of an "unprecedented amount of missiles" since January, LaCamera stressed, "We must assume that some of these systems are likely intended to be nuclear capable."
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