Seoul must weigh China, Russia’s dissent against THAAD

By Su Tan Source:Global Times Published: 2016/7/8 11:16:57

In the space of three days, the presidents of China and Russia twice issued statements opposing the US deployment of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea, Korea Joongang Daily reported Monday. Earlier this month, senior Chinese and Russian officials had already expressed their firm opposition. 

After Pyongyang carried out its fourth nuclear test in January and subsequently a series of test-launches, Seoul has shifted from its previous hesitance over a THAAD battery to considering it a must. Seoul's wariness of and fear of the unpredictable Pyongyang is explicitly indicated by blanket South Korean media reports and discussions. But for the concerns of China and Russia, the US and South Korean explanation of the THAAD defense-only use is too feeble to convince.  

Technically the THAAD system can hardly respond to Pyongyang's missile launch effectively. The system is designed to track and destroy missiles at a high altitude of 40-150 kilometers, but Pyongyang would mostly target South Korea with missiles that fly at less than 20 kilometers, much lower. 

Meanwhile, the THAAD system's coverage, especially the monitoring range of its X-band radar, goes far beyond the defensive needs of the Korean Peninsula and can locate missiles beyond North Korea. Once deployed, the system can grab ballistic missiles launched from eastern China and the Far East region in Russia before they enter outer space. This would be like installing a monitor at the doorstep of China and Russia and considerably squeeze the two countries' strategic space. 

On this basis, China and Russia need to make loud and clear their firm opposition to the THAAD deployment. The Chinese public opposes to the potential deployment, which reinforces Washington's rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy. Once the system is placed in South Korea, the US will enhance its military presence in Northeast Asia and there may be a military build-up in the region, which will escalate regional tensions and undermine regional peace and stability. North Korea will exploit the situation of regional instability to further advance its nuclear adventure, a scenario that is more dangerous to South Korea. 

Both China and Russia are major players in the Six-Party Talks and have a critical role in resolving the North Korea nuclear issue and safeguarding peace in the peninsula. They have common interests over the THAAD system. Despite the pressure from Washington, Seoul must heed the opposition of China and Russia, measure their weight in major regional issues and make its decision prudently.

Seoul's inclination toward the THAAD deployment has already cast a shadow on mutual trust between China and South Korea, which is of great significance to both countries economically and politically.


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