US anti-missile system: Beijing voices concern to Seoul

BEIJING • 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 US anti-missile system, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has told his South Korean counterpart.

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

Beijing worries that the system's powerful radar can penetrate Chinese territory and it has objected to the deployment.

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

Mr 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," Mr Wang added.

NO THREAT, SAYS SEOUL

What we need is multiple layers of defence... Thaad is really relevant. We don't pose any threat to China.

MR YUN BYUNG SE, South Korea's Foreign Minister, on the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) system.

Ms Fu Ying, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the Chinese National People's Congress, told a panel discussion at the Munich conference that China could not understand Washington's decision to deploy the system to South Korea. "It is like being stabbed by your friends," she said, adding the system would not increase South Korea's security anyway.

But South Korea's Mr Yun told the panel the system was needed to augment Seoul's existing Patriot missile defence system and guard against the kind of high-arc shot used by North Korea in its last test.

"What we need is multiple layers of defence... Thaad is really relevant," he said. "We don't pose any threat to China."

Mr Yun said North Korea launched two nuclear tests and 24 missiles last year alone and was nearing the final stage of nuclear weaponisation.

"In our analysis, the tipping point may be only a few years away," he told conference participants. "It's a ticking time bomb."

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.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2017, with the headline 'US anti-missile system: Beijing voices concern to Seoul'. Print Edition | Subscribe