Can South Korea honor its commitment?

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/28 23:38:40

South Korean opposition parties and some media outlets have harshly criticized the nation's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and her three-point pledge to China on the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system. Kang said that Seoul will not add to the existing THAAD system, not participate in the US-led missile defense system, and not participate in the proposed Japan-South Korea-US military alliance. South Korean officials have repeatedly stated that the three-no position is not a commitment, but merely a description of its stance, and it does not include one restriction - restricting the operation of the THAAD system in order to not harm China's strategic security interests.

During a meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Kang on November 22, Wang urged South Korea to honor its word.

However, it seems a bit daunting to expect Seoul to keep its posture given its current wrangling and wavering over the issue.

Over the THAAD issue, to which China attaches great importance, South Korea expressed a stance which is regarded by China as a condition for improving bilateral relations.

According to the general understanding of the Chinese people and the world, it is a promise, and therefore should be fulfilled. If South Koreans are upholding another standard of ethical and trustworthy behavior - one which is solemnly stated on a diplomatic occasion but is only aimed at gaining interests and can be disposed of right after the country reaches its goal - they should tell us in advance.

Moreover, South Korea has repeatedly promised China that the THAAD system in South Korea is not aimed at China, does not threaten China's national security and it will only be used to cope with the nuclear threat from North Korea. Nevertheless, as we all know, the system's range can cover north and northeastern China. If the THAAD system's operations will not be restricted, how do we ensure that it will only be used against Pyongyang and will definitely not jeopardize China's security?

Due to Seoul's variable modes over the issue, the prospects for improving bilateral ties are even more pessimistic than before. Although South Korean President Moon Jae-in will visit China soon, ups and downs in relations between Beijing and Seoul will be inevitable in the future.

Undoubtedly, Chinese people hope the two countries can step out of the logjam. But the root cause of the stalemate is that China's national security is threatened by moves from the US-South Korean military alliance, such as the deployment of THAAD. The three-no position and one restriction are Seoul's commitment to remove the threats. They are the bottom line if South Korea wants to be a friendly country to China.

The process of resolving the THAAD issue has just started. Before the system is withdrawn from South Korea, it is impossible for the two countries to turn over a new leaf in their relationship. Seoul should not expect it can fool China by saying something nice first and then swallow half of its words back, as if the controversy over THAAD never occurred.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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