Seoul and Washington have been in advanced discussions to install a sophisticated anti-missile system called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in South Korea. The plan, which received a sense of added urgency after North Korea conducted nuclear tests earlier this year, has now prompted vociferous protestation from Russia and China. Reuters:
Speaking at joint press briefing with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the United States should respect “legitimate concerns” of China and Russia over the missile system.
“This move goes beyond the defensive needs of the relevant countries. If it is deployed it will directly impact China’s and Russia’s respective strategic security,” Wang said.
“Not only does it threaten the resolution of the peninsula nuclear issue, it quite possibly could pour oil on the fire of an already tense situation, and even destroy strategic equilibrium on the peninsula.”
North Korea’s actions should not be used as an excuse to make moves that would escalate tensions, especially the U.S. deployment of an anti-missile system, Lavrov said, according to an interpretation in Chinese.
Yesterday, Xi Jinping assured South Korea that he would do whatever it took to prevent war. But South Korea isn’t convinced that Beijing takes its fears of Pyongyang seriously, and Seoul has been strengthening relationships with Tokyo and Washington.
Moscow, for its part, has kept relatively quiet since North Korea became more restive earlier this year. There were even indications that Putin had decided to be tough on North Korea in a show of goodwill to Tokyo. In exchange, Abe asked the G-7, which had booted Russia from its conferences as punishment for the Ukraine invasion, to readmit Moscow expeditiously. But in recent days, any possibility of a Japan–Russia entente has dissolved, with Lavrov stating that the Kremlin was not willing to negotiate on the contentious Kuril island dispute that has frustrated Tokyo–Moscow relations since the end of World War II.
Now it’s the Americans’ move. Will they deploy the THAAD system, will they cave to Russia and China’s objections, or is there some other desirable arrangement? Could the threat of THAAD be a means to force Pyongyang’s only backers to force real and meaningful concessions out of Kim Jong-un?