South Korea exposing itself to danger with THAAD deployment

By Li Ruohan Source:Global Times Published: 2017/2/27 23:53:39

South Korea ‘exposing itself to danger’ with deployment

South Korean protesters are blocked by police officers during a rally to oppose a plan to deploy US missile defense system the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, in front of the Lotte International Co. in Seoul on Monday, as South Korea's Lotte Group holds a board meeting to decide whether to offer its golf course to be used as a site for THAAD. Photo: AP

South Korea is exposing itself to more danger and is risking its independence, experts said, after the board of Lotte Group on Monday approved a land swap deal with the country's military that clears the way for deployment of a controversial US missile defense system.

The deal means the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system will be deployed on a Lotte-owned golf course in Seongju county.

Lotte will receive a parcel of military-owned land in return. The country's defense ministry plans to sign the deal with Lotte as early as Tuesday, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

This will likely accelerate the remaining procedures for the THAAD deployment, including the provision of the land to the US military, the design of the base, the evaluation of environmental effects and construction, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Negotiations with Lotte started in January, and were the final obstacle to the deployment. This was pushed through despite protests in South Korea and neighboring countries, said Lü Chao, a research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences.

The deployment will break the strategic balance in Northeast Asia, Lü said, adding that the decision to deploy THAAD shows South Korea's intention to strengthen ties with the US and reveals its hostile attitude toward China and Russia.

However, instead of making South Korea a safer place, the deployment of THAAD will expose it to more uncertainties, as China and Russia will surely take countermeasures against the system that could enable South Korea and the US to snoop on their territories and military intelligence, Lü said.

THAAD's X-band radar can peer into Chinese and Russian territories, though South Korea maintains the system is solely for protection from potential North Korean missile strikes. Seoul claims the radar will have a detectable range of 600-800 kilometers, but it can be converted at any time to monitor at least 2,000 kilometers away, well beyond the stated goal of countering missiles from North Korea.

Instead of getting closer to the US, South Korea is essentially being "kidnapped" by the relationship and losing its independence, Lü noted.

According to Yonhap's report, the deployment will be complete as early as May, critical timing for South Korea to hold a presidential election if Park Geun-hye is removed from her position.

South Korea's military will hurry the process to finish the deployment of THAAD during Park's term, so the deployment will become a fact and leave little room for the next president to overturn the decision, experts said.

Strong opposition

China's foreign ministry on Monday expressed strong opposition and discontent toward THAAD, and vowed to "resolutely take necessary measures" to safeguard its security interests.

"China will take necessary measures to safeguard its security interests, and the US and South Korea will have to bear all the resulting consequences," Geng Shuang, spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, said at a news conference.

As China is the largest destination for South Korean goods and outbound investment, and South Korea is China's third-largest trade partner, the economic sector could be vulnerable to losses caused by the deployment, analysts said.

Large-scale economic cooperation projects, as well as the Free Trade Agreement signed between China and South Korea in 2015, may be halted, Lü said, adding that investment might also be affected amid widespread outrage among the Chinese public.

The People's Liberation Army may also adjust it's missile system to target South Korea, Lü added.

Apart from government countermeasures, boycott campaigns launched by the public and private sectors in China could also offer a bitter pill for South Korea, a Beijing-based commentator on South Korean affairs, surnamed Chen, told the Global Times on Monday.

According to a poll participated in by more than 6,000 Net users on news site, 95 percent of respondents called for an all-round boycott of South Korean products, as well as the country's cultural and entertainment products that are extremely popular in China.

"Many Chinese people find it hard to accept that their money will be used by the South Korean company on military facilities that will hurt China's national security," Chen said.

Newspaper headline: Lotte approves THAAD land

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