The US and South Korea have begun talks over the deployment of an advanced missile defence system on the peninsula, South Korea’s defence ministry spokesperson Moon Sang-gyun has said. It followed demands from the Chinese Foreign Minister for the US to act cautiously, according to Korean Yonhap News. 

US Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook announced last Monday that the US and South Korea had begun formal consultations to improve its “alliance missile defense posture”. It came after North Korea launched what it said was an observation satellite but what the US and its neighbours called a missile test.

THAAD missile launcher. File photo: Wikimedia.

Contradictory statements

Last Thursday, South Korean Spokesperson and Deputy Minister for Public Relations Cho June-hyuck said: “The ROK [South Korea] and the US have embarked on formal consultations on the possible deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery…”

Meeting in Munich, Germany on February 12, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed “grave concerns” over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to US Secretary of State John Kerry, reported Reuters. However, on February 17, Pentagon spokesperson Bill Urban told Yonhap News that the talks have not yet begun, and there was no timetable for when they would.

Just one day later, Yonhap reported that the two countries had begun official talks on deploying THAAD.

THAAD interceptor test. Photo: Wikimedia.

The THAAD system is an interceptor that can defend against both missiles and aircrafts. The system would be “more useful as sticks against China than North Korean missiles”, wrote Raoul Heinrichs, from the Lowy Institute for International Policy, in the National Interest.

China opposed the deployment of the system. “It [THAAD] will directly damage China’s strategic security interests and also harm security interests of other countries in the region,” said Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei on February 15.

“China will remain committed to advancing denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula… [but] we will not allow our legitimate national security interests to be harmed,” he added.

Hermina Wong

Hermina is a Hong Kong writer and journalist. She graduated with a degree in politics from Cambridge, and is interested in international affairs, particularly those related to China, the EU and the Middle East. She also enjoys political satire.