S. Korea rebukes China for criticising Thaad

SEOUL • South Korea's Presidential office has rebuked China's criticism of its decision to deploy an advanced anti-missile defence, urging Beijing to instead play a stronger role against North Korea's provocations on the peninsula.

The statement by President Park Geun Hye's office marked an escalation of diplomatic tensions between South Korea and China, which has sharply criticised Seoul's move to host a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) unit with the United States military.

Ms Park's senior press secretary, Mr Kim Sung Woo, said in the statement that recent commentary carried by China's state media was"out of place" in blaming South Korea for raising tensions on the Korean peninsula with the move to deploy Thaad.

"Rather than taking issue with our purely defensive action, China should raise issues in a stronger manner with North Korea, which is breaking peace and stability on the Korean peninsula by conducting four nuclear tests, and, just this year, launching more than 10 ballistic missiles," the statement said.

China is the sole major ally of the impoverished and isolated North, which relies heavily on food and oil imports from its neighbour.

The Blue House also urged a group of six Seoul lawmakers from the main left-leaning opposition party to scrap a plan to visit Beijing from Aug 8 to 10, aimed at discussing ways of mending ties.

"No matter what the intention of these lawmakers is, their trip would eventually help strengthen the Chinese government's stance and deepen division within South Korea," it said.

South Korea and the US began discussions to deploy Thaad in the South after the North's fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch in defiance of UN sanctions.

South Korea has said the move is purely to counter growing missile threats from the North and was not intended to target China, but Beijing has protested it would destabilise the regional security balance.

On Wednesday, China's People's Daily in an editorial said:"It is impossible for South Korea's leader not to know America's strategic plot. (She) is well aware of the real direction of the Thaad anti-missile system.

"(She) has no hesitation about undermining regional stability and flagrantly damaging the security interests of neighbouring powers."

It even warned Seoul on Thursday of the potentially costly "domino effect", saying the South would "inevitably be the first target" in any conflict between China and the US.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2016, with the headline 'S. Korea rebukes China for criticising Thaad'. Print Edition | Subscribe