Key Cooperative Research Institute for Policy Studies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the P.R.C (2022-2024)

Zheng Jiyong,“THAAD Exacerbates Peninsula' s Tension”(Global Times)


  The speculation about US deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea has evoked much debate and some South Korean media are venting their anger on China, arguing that China should take the responsibility for the North Korean nuclear issue. They have in fact pointed the finger at the wrong party and ignored the real factors.


  The US strategy in Northeast Asia aims to use all means to command its allies South Korea and Japan by throwing the region into controllable disorder and prevent regional stakeholders from getting closer so that US clout can be retained.


  To this end, Washington has played the card of THAAD in the context of North Korean nuclear issue and managed to drive a wedge between China and South Korea, China and Russia, and the two Koreas.


  Deploying THAAD in the Korean Peninsula will pose a severe threat to the vulnerable stability and peace in Northeast Asia. The region has witnessed a serious arms race and a growing security plight due to historical, territorial and maritime disputes.


  This will be complicated by THAAD deployment and plunge the region into the chaos that the Middle East orUkraineis undergoing.


  In this sense, any move that will threaten regional stability and peace will surely incur strong opposition from stakeholders including China.


  Deploying THAAD provides no fundamental solution to problems in the peninsula but rather worsens the situation. It will push stakeholders to develop more advanced missiles and weapons to counter the defense system and as a result undermine the hard-earned peace and disrupt the relations between countries in the region. By this definition, THAAD is more an offensive weapon than defense system.


  Moreover, debate over the THAAD system has caused huge rifts in the political and social arena of South Korea as opponents and supporters fiercely trade barbs. It also confuses Sino-South Korean relations that have previously been on a fast track. Russia has also expressed its concern. The involvement of these three big powers presents a serious test for Seoul's diplomacy.


  Seoul claimed that THAAD is targeted at the nuclear weapons and missiles from Pyongyang, but in fact the system can only have very limited effects that are inadequate to defend it from the threats cited.


  Even if THAAD shoots down North Korea's nuclear weapons, they are likely to impact the southern peninsula. Besides, the chances of a nuclear war in Northeast Asia are far slimmer than predicted since using nuclear weapons risks self-destruction.


  What Seoul should be wary of is the low-altitude aircraft and artillery from the North, which THAAD is unable to bring down. The missile system can at most offer some psychological consolation.


  Some experts suggested that unnecessary conflicts with China may be avoided by lowering the capacity of the THAAD radar so that China doesn't need to be concerned.


  The logic makes no sense. It's unwise and unsustainable for Seoul to seek economic benefits from ties with China while leaning on Washington for security, which will eventually harms itself.


  The US cites nuclear weapons in North Korea as an excuse for deploying the THAAD system. However, if it truly feels the necessity to address the nuclear issue, it needs to seek a solution instead of complicating the situation.


  Likewise, the US and South Korea have turned their previous prudence on North Korea's nuclear capability into frequent exaggeration probably to find an excuse for the THAAD deployment. However, a true solution to the North Korean threat should be figured out at the negotiation table, not by deploying THAAD.


  Given its military strength plus the US forces stationed there, South Korea has overwhelming advantages in handling possible threats from the North.


  However, Seoul, together with East Asian countries, has to employ political wisdom to deal with its biggest strategic threat, which is the US mind-set of profiting from keeping the peninsula moderately chaotic.