South Korea's defense ministry said Monday that a contract that would secure the location of a U.S. missile defense system, which is being deployed to protect against North Korea's growing nuclear and ballistic capabilities, could be delayed. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is due to be deployed on a land owned by the Lotte Group conglomerate in the Seongju region, southeast of South Korea's capital Seoul. 

"The plan to go ahead with the exchange will be signed by mid-January, but there is a possibility it will be slightly delayed," South Korean defense ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun told a regular news briefing, according to Reuters. "Lotte needs to hold a meeting of the board of directors to approve the final assessment fee," Moon said, adding: "We understand that the meeting has not happened yet, but will be held soon."

The deployment of THAAD in South Korea has left China and Russia concerned over security in the region. Beijing has strongly objected to the use of THAAD in South Korea, saying that the missile system's powerful radar could penetrate Chinese territory, and could also be used to monitor its missile launches as far inland as Xian in the northwest.

Meanwhile, Moscow argues that the deployment could aggravate tensions in the Korean Peninsula. THAAD, which is manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is capable of intercepting missiles in or outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

Several farmers from the rural Seongju have protested saying the missile defense system's advanced radar will damage local melon crops and make the small town a target of a North Korean attack.

Moon Jae-in, a former opposition leader who currently leads polls of presidential hopefuls, reportedly said that the THAAD deployment should be put on hold until the next South Korean administration is in place. However, former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is expected to run for president of South Korea, said Sunday that it is appropriate for THAAD to be deployed in the country. 

South Korea is planning to deploy the anti-ballistic missile defense system by the end of this year.