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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

China wants US to withdraw THAAD missile system from South Korea

While Trump claims that China is cooperating with the U.S. in attempts to force North Korea to rein in North Korea the Chinese have urged the US and South Korea to withdraw the THAAD anti-missile system.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is being deployed by the U.S. in South Korea ostensibly to defend against any North Korean attacks. However, both Russia and China objected to the deployment on the grounds that it could be easily modified so as to be directed at them. Indeed it would give the U.S. first strike capacity on either country as discussed in a recent Digital Journal article.
The US is hastening the deployment of the system in South Korea moving parts to a deployment site at a former golf course about 230 kilometers south of Seoul the capital. The South Korean Foreign Ministry said: "South Korea and the United States have been working to secure an early operational capability of the THAAD system in response to North Korea's advancing nuclear and missile threat." At a daily news briefing Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Geng Shuang urged the U.S. and China to withdraw the system saying:"China strongly urges the United States and South Korea to stop actions that worsen regional tensions and harm China's strategic security interests and cancel the deployment of the THAAD system and withdraw the equipment. China will resolutely take necessary steps to defend its interests."
However, the US may be anxious to have THAAD in place before the coming South Korean election on May 9. The front-runner is opposed to the early deployment. Moon Jae-in said there should be a delay in deployment, suggesting that the new administration should make a decision and only after ascertaining public opinion on the issue and after more talks with Washington. A spokesperson for Moon said that moving the parts into place "ignored public opinion and due process" and he demanded the work be suspended. Both front-runners in the South Korean election favor a less confrontational approach than the present government. The winner is quite likely to raise questions about the THAAD system especially as it is also objected to by China and Russia. The U.S. may be trying to have the process as much completed as possible before a new government takes power.
The move to put THAAD parts in place was met by protesters who shouted and hurled water bottles at the transport vehicles. There were lines of police holding them back. According to the Yonhap news agency the parts included two or three launchers, intercept missiles and at least one radar. There were about 8,000 police officers mobilized to keep the road open, as the main road to the site had been blocked earlier. A video showing part of the demonstration is appended.
On Wednesday the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged that the US and South Korea end their joint exercises and that North Korea stop their nuclear program as a means of easing tensions. Yi said that North Korea's nuclear tests violated UN resolutions but that the joint U.S. South Korean military maneuvers were not in the spirit of the resolutions either. At a news conference Wang said: “Security and stability are very fragile at the moment and the danger is great of a new conflict breaking out at any time. We can’t risk even a one percent possibility of war,” he said, warning that a conflict would have “unimaginable consequences.Therefore, we call on all sides to be prudent and refrain from any actions or words that could lead to new provocations."
After an unusual and short White House briefing of U.S. Senators on the Korean situation, the Trump administration said that it aimed to push North Korea into dismantling its nuclear program through tougher sanctions and diplomatic pressure and remained open to negotiations. The U.S. has never engaged in direct negotiations on the issues with North Korea. It tells China what to do and then gets angry if this does not work. The Trump administration at least appears to be going through the motions of seeking a diplomatic solution before taking military action although no doubt all options are still on the table. The U.S. may decide to take military action before a new government is sworn in which might not be supportive of any military option. The U.S. is concerned that by some time after 2020 North Korea will have the capacity to hit the U.S. with a nuclear missile according to some experts.
A meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday chaired by Rex Tillerson is expected to discuss tougher sanctions, which according to the U.S. could include an oil embargo, banning North Korea's one airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing any Chinese and other foreign banks doing business with North Korea. While China would like to restart international talks the U.S. thinks talks are useless until North Korea shows it is serious about denuclearization. While China may be angry that North Korea causes it such trouble, both it and Russia object to THAAD and the U.S. appears bound and determined to go ahead with its agenda anyway even though there is little sign that North Korea will be deterred by such an action.

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