By: Zack Duvall
The recent delivery of the needed materials and equipment for the South Korean military, with the help of U.S. advisers, to finish deployment of the Terminal High- Altitude Area Defense system on the Korean peninsula has drawn some of the sharpest criticism from Chinese officials to date on Tuesday, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang saying that “consequences” for the recent decision would be a burden for the U.S. and South Korea to share.
“China firmly opposes the deployment of THAAD. We will definitely be taking the necessary measures to safeguard our own security interests. All consequences entailed from that will be borne by the U.S. and Seoul. We once again strongly urge the relevant sides to stop the process of deployment and refrain from going further down this wrong path.” A defiant and stern Shuang told reporters for various state run media outlets during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
The decision by the U.S. and South Korean officials to proceed with plans to have the system installed comes after the recent North Korean launch of 4 missiles, from deep within the isolated country on a shared border with China, into the Sea of Japan landing just 300 miles from the Japanese mainland.
Security and military analysts say that the THAAD missile system, which has the ability to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles mid-flight and well before they pose a threat to their intended targets, is considered by the Russian and Chinese governments to be a direct threat to their own radar and missile systems, that would be used in a theoretical war against NATO or the West.
Lou Yuan, an outspoken retired Chinese Army General, went so far as to say that if the West and South Korea complete deployment of the system, China could launch a tactical strike to cripple the system and leave it useless with relative ease.
“China could conduct a surgical hard-kill operation that would destroy the target , paralyzing it and making it unable to hit back.” Yuan wrote in an op-ed published in the Chinese state-run, ‘The Global Times’ publication. He went on to say in the piece that the “United States, Japan, and South Korea do not respect China’s major security concerns” adding that “China does not need to be a gentleman on everything.”
This past weekend South Korean officials, just after the provocative launch by the North, confirmed the recent delivery of a shipment for the project that they said included some of the actual launchers for the system, information that analysts say indicate a closer than anticipated completion datefor the THAAD system’s deployment, already being reported in South Korean media agencies as being sometime in April.
Outcry against the move from China was echoed by the Foreign Ministers of Russia and North Korea, both of whom issued statements against the system’s deployment to the region. However, Ki Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, says that the THAAD system is just the latest topic that the long-time former Cold War allies are using to rally their own political base.
“It’s apparent that China is trying to draw its two Cold War allies to its side, at least over THAAD- related issues. It will also highlight the alliance between South Korea and the U.S. as well as their ties with Japan as part of its tactics against THAAD.” Yong-hyun said in a statement from the university about the recent statements by Chinese officials.
The recent Chinese outcry isn’t just targeted towards the U.S. and its Asian- Pacific allies, but at the North Korean regime itself for carrying out such a launch, as the one this weekend, to draw such a dramatic response from Seoul and Washington.
‘By firing four missiles at once this time, the military confrontation between Pyongyang, Seoul, and Washington escalated a notch. Noticeably, the Chinese public is angry that Pyongyang’s nuclear program has provided an excuse for Seoul to deploy THAAD.” An opinion piece published by The Global Times said, hours after the comments by former Chinese Gen. Yuan were printed.
The situation is increasingly fluid, and with neither side showing any signs of backing down sure to continue to develop and potentially escalate.