China urges US to pull THAADs out of South Korea after secretive deployment
China has again urged the US to remove its THAAD anti-missile system from South Korea, following reports that additional launchers were brought into the country secretly, without even Korean President Moon Jae-in being informed.
China is “gravely concerned” by reports that four extra THAAD launchers were delivered to South Korea, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing in Beijing on Thursday.
“The deployment of THAAD by the US in the ROK (Republic of Korea) jeopardizes China’s strategic security interests [and] disrupts regional strategic balance,” Hua said, as cited by South Korea’s Hankyoreh paper.
The presence of the anti-missile system “won’t help achieving denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and regional peace and stability, and runs counter to all parties’ efforts to solve the issue through dialogue and consultation,” she said.
“We once again strongly urge the US and the ROK to stop and call off the deployment of THAAD,” the spokeswoman added.
Beijing remains unconvinced that THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) is needed to protect South Korea from a potential nuclear threat posed by the North, as the US claims. However, China believes it highly likely that the Americans will use the anti-missile system’s powerful radar to monitor the PRC’s military activities.
South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, ordered a probe into his country’s Defense Ministry after it was revealed that it had “intentionally dropped the introduction of four more (THAAD) launchers [from] its report.”
Presidential Blue House spokesman Yoon Young-chan called last week’s secret delivery a “very shocking” development.
During his campaign for office, Moon promised to delay the deployment of THAAD and, additionally, discuss the move with the South Korean parliament, arguing that the anti-missile system could actually do more harm than good.
However, the president told visiting US Senator Dick Durbin on Wednesday that the Defense Ministry probe was a “purely a domestic measure,” which was “not about trying to change the existing decision or sending a message to the US.”
Moon also sent his top security aide to Washington to reassure the US authorities that THAAD won’t be scrapped, Reuters reported.
The Americans earlier denied speculations that they had initiated the secret THAAD delivery, with Pentagon spokesman Army Major Jamie Davis saying the US military had “worked closely and been fully transparent” with South Korea on the issue.
“The rising North Korean missile threat makes THAAD a defensive necessity and the ROK-US alliance moved as quickly as possible, together, to bring this important capability to the ROK,” Davis explained.
The THAAD battery was equipped with two launchers out of a maximum capacity of six when it was deployed in South Korea in March before Moon became president. The stealthy delivery of the additional four launchers brings the system up to full strength.
Russia shares China’s worries about the presence of a US anti-missile system in South Korea, with President Vladimir Putin saying the move won’t go without response.
“This issue is a major concern for us and we have been constantly voicing it for decades. This disrupts the strategic balance in the world. But the world is silent and nobody listens to us,” Putin said on Thursday.
The US has “elements in their ABM system in Alaska and now in South Korea. Do we have to look at this helplessly and do the same in Eastern Europe? Of course not. We are contemplating our response to this challenge,” he stressed.