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S. Korea in Bind Over Missile Defense
International

S. Korea in Bind Over Missile Defense

The potential deployment of a sophisticated US air defense system in South Korea to counter the North’s missile threat is proving a headache for Seoul as it tries to walk a fine line between its closest security ally Washington and its biggest trade partner China.
Since June, US military officials have said the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system was needed in South Korea given Pyongyang’s growing missile arsenal, although there has been no formal proposal from Washington, Reuters reported.
While China initially said little about such a deployment, it has begun to express opposition, prompting some lawmakers in Seoul to express concern over the possible fallout on ties. At the same time, other MPs have said basing THAAD batteries in South Korea would strengthen the country’s security alliance with Washington.
The wrangle comes as Seoul also debates whether to join a Chinese-led development bank that the United States opposes.
The THAAD system, which is designed to intercept ballistic missiles at high altitude, has radar that can track objects 2,000 km (1,200 miles) away, a range which would include much of the Chinese mainland.
“It is a delicate issue when we look at South Korea-US relations and South Korea-China relations,” said a South Korean government official with knowledge of the matter but who declined to be identified. “We are aware of China’s concerns.”
With the issue dominating headlines in South Korean media, the government has stressed there have been no talks so far with Washington over the system.
“This government’s position is ‘three No’s’,” presidential Blue House spokesman Min Kyung-wook told a briefing last week. “There has been no request, so there has been no consultation and therefore there is no decision.”
The United States is South Korea’s closest ally, and maintains 28,500 military personnel in the country, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce and left the two Koreas in a technical state of war.

 

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