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North Korea nuclear crisis

US offers to brief China on over deployment of THAAD missile system in South Korea

Beijing has voiced opposition to Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system as its radar has range that extends far beyond the Korean peninsula into China

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2016, 9:36am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2016, 8:48pm

A senior United States diplomat said on Tuesday he hopes China will accept an offer for a technical briefing on a new missile defence system the US wants to deploy in South Korea – a prospect Beijing sees as a threat to its national security.

US Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system was necessary for the US to protect itself and regional allies from North Korean missile attacks.

“We realise China may not believe us and also proposed to go through the technology and specifications with them ... and we are prepared to explain [about] what the technology does and what it doesn’t do and hopefully they will take us up on that proposal,” Blinken told Washington’s Brookings Institution.

The Chinese foreign ministry did not say whether China would join the meeting, but said THAAD would affect stability in North and East Asia.

“Installing the THAAD system has extended far beyond the defence need against North Korea, and will cause direct harm to China’s strategic and security interests, as well as the regional balance,” Hong Lei, the ministry’s spokesman said at a regular press conference yesterday.

Hong said the situation in the Korean peninsula was complicated and sensitive, and China hoped all countries coulc “act with caution and be responsible”.

The US wants its THAAD missile system in Asia because of this mobile North Korean weapon

The offer by Washington came ahead of a visit by President Xi Jinping to Washington on Thursday for a nuclear security summit that will have concerns about North Korea high on the agenda.

Xi Jinping to attend US nuclear security summit amid tensions over North Korea’s claim to have tested hydrogen bomb

The US and South Korea agreed to begin talks on possible THAAD deployment last month after North Korea tested its fourth nuclear bomb on January 6 and launched a long-range rocket on February 7.

China backed tough new sanctions on North Korea following the tests, but has voiced opposition to THAAD as its radar has a range that would extend far beyond the Korean peninsula and into China.

Why does China react so strongly over the South Korea-based anti-missile system?

Blinken said THAAD deployment was a necessary step until Pyongyang’s behaviour changed.

“None of these steps are directed against China, but we have also been very clear that as long as this persists ... we will have to take steps,” he said.

Jin Canrong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, said the offer by the US was a positive move to ease mistrust.

“What China is worried about is the political intentions behind the US installing such a system,” said Jin.

“This will deepen the mistrust between China and the US, as well as create cracks in relations between China and South Korea,” he added.

“But the US and South Korea have yet to reach conclusion on details of the plan, such as how the two countries will divide the cost of installing such system,” Jin said, noting that the talk between China and the US would take place only after conclusions were reached between the US and South Korea.