The US Army’s Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence or THAAD system which has been deployed in South Korea is considered as one of the most advanced missile interceptors in the world, devised to shoot down any incoming hostile ballistic missiles.
On December 13, Moon Jae-in will pay an official visit to China for the first time. Moreover, in September, due to the deployment of THAAD in South Korea, Chinese citizens boycotted South Korean goods which created animosity between Beijing and Seoul. The significance of the visit of the head of the South Korea to the PRC and the state of relations between the two countries is analyzed by EurAsian Times.
Why is THAAD a Problem for China?
Perhaps the most important political event of 2017 in the Republic of Korea was the election of a new president from the Democratic Party. Traditionally, South Korean democrats are characterized by a milder and more flexible approach to relations with their neighbors – especially China and North Korea.
So, during the campaign, South Korean President Mun Zhe promised to go to Pyongyang in a state visit, as well as “enter into negotiations” with the PRC and the US on the deployment of elements of the US missile defense system THAAD in the country.
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“Concerns” about which the PRC President spoke, lies in the fact that the US missile defense system THAAD, deployed in South Korea in response to nuclear and ballistic tests in the DPRK, may represent a “threat to China’s national security”.
In June, Moon Zhe-in suspended the THAAD deployment before the completion of a full-fledged “environmental assessment”, but a couple of days after the underground nuclear test in North Korea took “a difficult but unavoidable decision”, the mobile THAAD launchers were transferred from warehouses to a new military base south of Seoul.
Chinese Proposal to South Korea for Removal of THAAD
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China reacted to the actions of South Korea and later in November Beijing and Seoul decided for rapprochement policy.
“Both sides share the view that strengthening of exchange and cooperation between South Korea and China serves their common interests, and agreed to promptly return exchange and cooperation in all areas to a normal development path,” the MFA of South Korea said. A similar message was published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.
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After these statements, Xi Jinping and Mun Zhe-in met in Vietnam, on the sidelines of the APEC summit. There, the Chinese leader called on Seoul to take a decision of removal of THAAD from South Korea. A month after the meeting in Vietnam, the PRC President invited Mun Zhe-in to visit China.
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Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang said that the meeting of the two heads of state in the Chinese capital “will play a positive role in deepening and developing relations between China and the Republic of Korea, and will strengthen contacts and coordination of the two sides on the nuclear issue of the Korean peninsula and other issues.”
It is noteworthy that neither side mentioned in the official reports the topic of THAAD deployment. But it will certainly come about, says the head of the Institute of International Politics of the Yanbian University in his article posted in the Chinese newspaper China Daily.
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“China and South Korea should address the THAAD issue in order to reflect on bilateral relations.The THAAD system poses a threat to China’s security and jeopardizes the position of the Republic of Korea in resolving the nuclear issue of the Korean peninsula. But as the US benefits from the dispute between China and South Korea- they can to use this support to strengthen their alliances with the South Korea and Japan and thus increase their influence on the peninsula, according to the Chinese experts.
While China is concerned about THAAD, South Korea, on the other hand, is more anxious about trade and economy.
According to the South Korean Experts, Beijing and Seoul need to restore the “strategic” economic partnership and consider the possibility of backing the Chinese initiative “One Belt – One Road”.
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In 2017, the boycott of goods and services of South Korean companies in China caused a significant loss of trade. Corporations with headquarters in Seoul want the Chinese to buy more South Korean cars and gadgets. Mun Zhe-in understands the needs of the business, but what concessions is he expected in return for Xi Jinping – is still unknown.