Seoul sends positive signal on THAAD

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/30 22:53:39

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told a parliamentary audit Monday that the country is not considering any additional deployments of the Terminal High Attitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, and won't participate in the US-led missile defense networks. She also stressed that trilateral military cooperation between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo will not extend to a military alliance, which will only operate within the framework of deterring Pyongyang's nuclear and missile threats.

Earlier, South Korea reiterated that the THAAD installation is temporary and does not target any third country.

Apparently, Seoul is intensively sending signals to Beijing and responding to its concerns over THAAD and other security issues. From this perspective, the Moon Jae-in government is more proactive than the Park Geun-hye administration in addressing the THAAD issue, a new gesture that is welcomed.

The US deployed its anti-missile system in Europe on the pretext of the Iran nuclear issue, and now it has used North Korea's nuclear crisis as an excuse to install the THAAD system in Asia. Kang's remarks at least demonstrate that Seoul has realized the strategic seriousness of Beijing's opposition to the establishment of an anti-missile system in the Asia-Pacific region. South Korea has shown its unwillingness to pick sides in the major-power game.

Beijing and Seoul have been mired in a standoff over the THAAD issue in the past year. Statistics cited by South Korean media suggest that South Korea suffered $12 billion in losses, with its GDP pulled down by 0.4 percent due to fallout from the THAAD deployment. The move also inflicted losses on China. 

But Beijing has conveyed strong messages that China will not accept any damages to its strategic security. China's role in the THAAD issue is passive, but it is firm in its stance and attitude against the deployment. The frictions between Beijing and Seoul over THAAD show the outside world China's determination to safeguard its interests.

Kang's remarks cannot be equated to a solution to the THAAD issue. China wants the system to be withdrawn from South Korea. As the US is the initiator of the THAAD installation, a thorough settlement of the issue requires more negotiations and bargaining.

South Korea's strict framing of the Seoul-Washington military alliance within Korean Peninsula affairs, and sticking to a neutral stance in the major-power game is what China cares about most regarding the Beijing-Seoul relationship. The US may intend to expand the Seoul-Washington military alliance into another outpost for its major-power game, about which China and Russia are quite sensitive. Seoul should take Beijing's and Moscow's concerns into full consideration before introducing US forces onto its soil.

South Korea's sensitive geographic location determines that the country needs to have broad horizons so as to maintain its strategic flexibility and avoid any further escalation of the situation.

The THAAD issue also reminds China that an unstable peripheral environment may give external forces opportunities to interfere with regional affairs and jeopardize China's strategic security. The construction of a peaceful and stable peripheral environment is a task for China that deserves relentless efforts.

Beijing and Seoul have consistent interests on the Pyongyang nuclear issue, but Seoul has been kidnapped by Washington's peninsula policy. Bringing all sides back to the right track is a tough mission for China.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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