Risking China’s wrath, South Korean presidential front runner Yoon Suk-yeol says more US Thaad missile deployments are possible
- The conservative opposition People Power Party’s Yoon Suk-yeol says he is also open to deeper military cooperation with America and Japan
- His remarks threaten to upend President Moon Jae-in’s delicately balanced relationship with China, which unleashed a slew of retaliatory measures when the systems were first installed
“These issues should be decided upon in accordance with our security situations,” he said.
“It is regrettable that it is misunderstood as a provocative act to China,” he added.
Choi Kang, vice-president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said the conservatives could be bad news for both China and North Korea as they preferred a tougher stance towards both countries.
“Naturally, China wouldn’t be much excited to see Yoon triumph over Lee,” he said, in a reference to Lee Jae-myung, the presidential candidate of Moon’s Democratic Party.
Still, Yoon in his remarks on Friday pledged to open a “new era of cooperation” with China based on mutual respect and push for regular high-level strategic talks if elected.
US deploys THAAD missile defense system to South Korea
Yoon, who was speaking to foreign correspondents, also said he was opposed to a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean war, as suggested by Moon to bring Pyongyang back to the negotiating table. Moon has consistently pushed for inter-Korean engagement as the first step to a broader discussion with the US on denuclearisation, and eventual reunification.
Efforts to declare an end to the war – which technically continues as the fighting resulted in an armistice rather than a peace treaty – appear to be gathering steam, with US and South Korean officials working on the wording of such a declaration and North Korea signalling conditional interest.
But Yoon said such a gesture could send the wrong signal to Pyongyang at a time when it was continuing to build its nuclear and missile capabilities.
As Moon cannot run again for election, his Democratic Party is battling to stay in power through Lee, the former governor of the country’s most populous Gyeonggi province.
Lee on Monday said he was not in favour of Japan joining the US and South Korea in a three-way military alliance, and that he opposed any further deployment of Thaad.