What the THAAD Missile Defense System Can-and Can't-Do in South Korea

Nettie James
May 12, 2017

South Korea's new president launched worldwide efforts to defuse tensions over North Korea's weapons development yesterday, urging both dialogue and sanctions while also aiming to ease Chinese anger about an American anti-missile system.

The election of South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, has given fresh hope of a thawing in relations with China, which have recently been strained due to the deployment of a controversial missile defense system in South Korea.

"The resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue must be comprehensive and sequential, with pressure and sanctions used in parallel with negotiations", Mr Moon's spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, quoted the Korean leader as telling his Chinese counterpart.

Unless North Korea stops the development of its nuclear weapons and starts the process of denuclearization, there's little room for Moon to lift existing economic sanctions and initiate engagement with its neighbor in the north, including reopening the Kaesong Industrial Complex that the previous administration said was funneling hard currency to the regime in Pyongyang.

Congratulating Moon on his election as South Korean president, President Xi said that China and South Korea are close neighbours as well as important players in the region. Mr Moon has advocated dialogue with the North as well as sanctions, adopting a more conciliatory stance than his predecessor.

While taking the oath of office Wednesday, Moon said he's open to visiting North Korea under the right conditions. It has also been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the United States, presenting Trump with perhaps his most pressing security issue.

The call to Moon took place just a day after he took office and comes amid increased regional tensions over North Korea as well as the deployment of a United States missile-defense shield in South Korea.

"I would like to closely cooperate with the president to achieve the denuclearisation of North Korea", Abe told Moon.

Japan has been concerned that Moon will take a tough line on feuds stemming from the bitter legacy of its 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula and could fray ties at a time when cooperation on North Korea is vital.

China has been upset by the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system that was approved by Moon's conservative predecessor as a hedge against North Korea, placing Seoul in a hard spot between its closest military ally in Washington and its largest trading partner in Beijing.

Beijing has been always opposed to the deployment of the US' Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to South Korea.

During the 40-minute conversation he also proposed sending a special delegation to Beijing that will "exclusively discuss the THAAD and the North's nuclear issues", Yoon said.

Other reports by Insurance News

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