South Korea on Sunday rejected China’s criticism over the planned deployment in the South of a US anti-missile system, saying Beijing’s failure to curb its ally North Korea had created the situation. Seoul’s decision to deploy the powerful US system, to counter a growing threat from North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, threatens to damage relations with its largest trading partner Beijing.
China has condemned the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system as a move against its own national security interests and said it would further heighten regional tension. The People’s Daily even warned Seoul on Thursday of the potentially costly “domino effect”, saying the South would “inevitably be the first target” in any conflict between China and the US. The South’s presidential office however urged China to work harder to tame its neighbour North Korea, saying THAAD would have been unnecessary had there been no threat from it.
“Chinese media recently put the cart before the horse in insisting that our decision to host the THAAD was the cause of the North’s series of provocations including ballistic missile launches,” the presidential Blue House said in a statement.
Tension has been running high since the North staged its fourth nuclear test in January and a series of missile launches since then — most recently last Wednesday.
“We believe that China, before taking issue with our purely defensive move, should raise the issue more strongly with the North, which… is disrupting the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia,” it said. China is the sole major ally of the impoverished and isolated North, which relies heavily on food and oil imports from its neighbour.
The Blue House also urged a group of six Seoul lawmakers from the main left-leaning opposition party to scrap a plan to visit Beijing, after they had announced the August 8-10 trip aimed at discussing ways of mending ties.
“No matter what the intention of these lawmakers is, their trip would eventually help strengthen the Chinese government’s stance and deepen division within South Koreans,” it said.