A statement issued by U.S. Forces Korea said the American battery “has the ability to intercept North Korean missiles”.

The North has carried out 50 known ballistic missile tests and three nuclear experiments since leader Kim Jong-un came to power in 2011.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense’s (THAAD) key parts arrived only last week in the South’s remote Seongju County, where protesters are upset by the swift deployment because of health, environment and security risks.

Critics believe Seoul rushed the installation so it cannot be easily reversed after next Tuesday’s South Korean presidential election, which is expected to be won by THAAD-cautious candidate Moon Jae-in.

There has been added controversy over U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent request to the South to pay THAAD’s $1 billion cost, despite a previous agreement that Seoul would provide the land and Washington would pay for the battery itself.

While South Korea insists the original deal remains in force, the local economy has already paid a relatively heavy price for THAAD due to alleged Chinese sanctions stemming from Beijing’s open disapproval of the system.

North Korea was firm in its own condemnation Tuesday, as Pyongyang’s state-controlled website accused Seoul of “bringing in the source of a catastrophe which South Korean people detest”.

Anadolu Agency