S.Korea can’t strike a balance between China and US on THAAD

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/7 23:58:39

South Korea's presidential office confirmed on Wednesday that a further deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system is to be suspended, and there will be a full-blown environmental impact assessment into it. A senior Blue House official said: "We won't do anything to [the two launchers] already deployed, but when it comes to the additional deployment [of four launchers], we have to wait for the environmental impact assessment."

During the recent Shangri-La Dialogue, South Korean President Moon Jae-in promised the US that it would not cancel the deployment of THAAD. Although the latest announcement from the Blue House is not much different from Moon's promise to the US, Moon, at least, is slowing down the THAAD deployment. The "not canceling" and "slowing down" are two sides of the same coin shown to the US and China. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on June 1 that Russia would not ignore the US' deployment of THAAD in South Korea, and pointed out the contested islands, known as the Northern Territories in Japan, would be an ideal place for military deployment against THAAD. The consistent stand of Russia and China on THAAD increases the pressure on Seoul.

THAAD is a strategic trap and South Korea is deeply mired in it. It will be difficult for Moon to extract himself. The US is leading the deployment, and the previous South Korean government gave it the green light. But no matter how hard it is for South Korea to deal with the issue, China and Russia have no obligation to bear the consequence.

Obviously, the pressure China puts on South Korea has taken effect. Seoul's will has been shaken. It now hopes that China will shoulder the damage caused by deploying THAAD for the sake of the overall relationship between China and South Korea.

Moon is more rational on THAAD than former President Park Geun-hye, which can benefit future China-South Korea relations. No matter the outcome, that the Blue House announced a suspension in the deployment of THAAD can help reduce friction with China.

However, attitude is not everything. Without solving the problem of THAAD, the pain it has brought to bilateral relations will not disappear, and South Korea must swallow some of the bitter results.

China should be fully prepared for the worst-case scenario. Once South Korea finishes its deployment of THAAD, China should have corresponding countermeasures immediately. Sino-Russian cooperation on this will be important. Seoul must know it cannot escape scot-free.



Posted in: EDITORIAL

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