China says understands South Korean need for security, still opposes US anti-missile system Thaad

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks at the 53rd Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, on Feb 17, 2017.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks at the 53rd Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, on Feb 17, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (Reuters) - China understands South Korea's need to protect its security but Seoul still needs to respect Beijing's concerns about the deployment of an advanced USanti-missile system, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his South Korean counterpart.

China has repeatedly expressed opposition to South Korea's planned deployment later this year of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) system, which Seoul and Washington say is needed to defend against North Korea.

China worries the system's powerful radar can penetrate its territory and it has objected to the deployment.

Meeting on Saturday on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Wang repeated to South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se China's opposition to Thaad, China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

Wang "stressed that one country's security should not be founded on the basis of harming another country's security", the ministry paraphrased him as saying.

"China understands South Korea's need to protect its own security, and at the same time South Korea should respect China's reasonable position," Wang added.

Wang and Yun also discussed North Korea, the ministry said, with Wang saying efforts to seek peace should not be abandoned.

"All parties, at the same time as strictly enforcing Security Council resolutions, should proactively look for break through points to resume negotiations, to break the negative cycle of the nuclear issue on the peninsula," Wang said.

North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-1953 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North regularly threatens to destroy the South and the South's main ally, the United States.

Earlier this month, North Korea tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile, its first direct challenge to the international community since US President Donald Trump took office on Jan 20.

China says it is committed to enforcing UN sanctions against its unpredictable neighbour, whose nuclear and missile tests have angered Beijing.

China will suspend all imports of coal from North Korea starting Feb 19, the country's commerce ministry said on Saturday, as part of its efforts to implement United Nations sanctions against the country.