Seoul can’t expect China to accept THAAD

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/17 23:58:40

South Korean envoy Lee Hae-chan visited China today, part of president Moon Jae-in's mission to send envoys to the US, Japan, China and Russia to strengthen diplomatic ties with the four countries.

A former prime minister and currently a National Assembly member, Lee is recognized as a China hand. Among the four envoys, he is the most influential. He faces the daunting task of holding talks with China, and the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system will top the agenda.

Since Moon's swearing-in, the Blue House claimed that the new president called for a parliamentary review of the THAAD deployment and he cannot be arbitrarily taken as opposing the anti-missile system. The new government will hold public discussions and may require permission from the National Assembly.

North Korea launched a missile test on Sunday, and the possibility of more missile tests or even nuclear tests cannot be excluded. This could be used as an excuse to support the THAAD deployment. Lee's visit would be tasked with requesting China's understanding on the "irreversible process of deploying THAAD" and exploring the possibility of reducing its negative effect on the Beijing-Seoul relationship.

Public opinion in South Korea is brimming with optimism that bilateral ties can walk out of the shadows and be restored to their former vitality, regardless of how the THAAD issue turns out. Beijing will encourage Moon's advocate on developing the Sino-South Korean relationship, however, it will be unswerving in its opposition against the THAAD deployment, which cannot be traded for the new government's friendly posture toward China.

As long as South Korea continues its process of deploying THAAD, it will be difficult for cooperation between China and South Korea to recover to the previous level. Stopping the deployment of THAAD is the bottom line of China. Chinese people have quickly adapted to the declining exchanges between the two countries. Without South Korean fads, Chinese people still have rich lives. There are many other destinations for Chinese tourists besides South Korea.

The future of THAAD is seen by Chinese as the touchstone of whether Seoul helps Washington to contain China. Perhaps South Korea doesn't want to completely go over to the US, but that is the actual effect of THAAD.

Even if China and South Korea remain at a stalemate due to THAAD, we can't say that bilateral relations are totally over. A stalemate can also be rational with few nationalistic impulses. Seoul needs to make a choice between deploying THAAD and resuming Sino-South Korean relations. It should not hope to have it both ways.

If THAAD were eventually to be forcefully deployed and in full operation in South Korea, it would definitely intensify the nuclear arms race and security dilemmas on the Korean Peninsula. The Korean Peninsula is in deep chaos. THAAD is providing new stimulus for the turmoil on the peninsula and even in Northeast Asia. It should be known that South Korea is not able to manage the greater risks brought by THAAD. A timely halt will be the best choice.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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