South Korea president says Thaad will not be 'invasive' of China's security

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is seen in Seongju, South Korea on June 13, 2017.
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is seen in Seongju, South Korea on June 13, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL/BEIJING (REUTERS) - South Korea President Moon Jae In has stressed that the presence of a US anti-missile system was inevitable due to the looming North Korean threat but he assured that it would not be used against China.

"South Korea will be extremely careful from here on out that the Thaad system is not invasive of China's security. South Korea has received promises from the United States multiple times regarding this," Mr Moon said in an interview with Chinese state television shown late on Monday (Dec 11), ahead of his four-day visit to China starting on Wednesday.

Joint efforts by China and South Korea could have "good results" if they work together to bring North Korea to the negotiating table, he added.

Curbing North Korea's nuclear ambitions will top Mr Moon's agenda in Beijing during his visit aimed at breaking the ice after a furious row over Seoul's deployment of the Thaad (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) anti-missile system.

While both South Korea and China share the goal of getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and stop testing increasingly sophisticated long-range missiles, the two have not seen eye-to-eye on how to achieve this.

China has been particularly angered at the deployment of the Thaad system in South Korea, saying its powerful radar can see far into China and will do nothing to ease tension with North Korea.

Mr Moon will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday in Beijing and he is expected to reaffirm South Korea's agreement with China in late October that they would normalise exchanges and move past the dispute over Thaad, which froze trade and business exchanges between the two countries.

The Thaad disagreement had dented South Korea's economic growth, especially its tourism industry, as group tours from China came to a halt while charter flights from South Korea were cancelled.

While China still objects to Thaad, it has said it understands South Korea's decision to deploy it.

North Korea has shown little sign it wants to engage in formal talks, with its state media citing leader Kim Jong Un as saying on Tuesday that North Korea should develop and manufacture more diverse weapons to "completely overpower the enemy".

Mr Kim was addressing a rare munitions conference on Monday to laud the North's latest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

North Korea last month (November) test-launched what it called its most advanced ICBM in defiance of international sanctions and condemnation as it presses on with its mission to create a nuclear-tipped missile that can hit the United States.

Speaking over the weekend, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Mr Moon had chosen to have "friendly cooperation" with China, and China was willing to work with South Korea to bring peace and stability to the Korean peninsula.

During his first visit to China since taking office in May this year, Mr Moon is expected to get bilateral economic exchanges back on track. According to South Korean media, Mr Moon will be accompanied by the biggest business entourage ever with more than 220 businesses taking part in the four-day visit.