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S. Korea, China experts spar over U.S. missile-defense system

All Headlines 18:33 November 28, 2014

SHANGHAI, Nov. 28 (Yonhap) -- Security experts of South Korea and China clashed Friday over a possible deployment of an advanced U.S. missile-defense system on South Korean soil, highlighting a long-standing rift between Seoul and Beijing despite their growing warmth on bilateral ties.

South Korea has officially disavowed its intention to join or host the U.S. missile-defense system known as the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, but the Pentagon has said it is considering deploying it in South Korea to better defend against missile threats from North Korea. About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea.

China's opposition to a deployment of the THAAD battery in South Korea has been well known, but the disagreement at a forum, jointly hosted by the South Korean Consulate General in Shanghai and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, again proved how it is difficult for South Korea and China to develop common security interests in Northeast Asia.

Liu Ming, deputy head of the Institute of International Relations at the Shanghai institute, told the forum that a deployment of the advanced U.S. missile-defense system in South Korea would "pose a threat" to China's security interests because its radar system can monitor military facilities in China.

Nam Sung-wook, a professor of North Korean studies at Seoul-based Korea University, hit back at the Chinese opposition, saying that South Korea can't intercept a North Korean missile flying at an altitude higher than 100 kilometers.

"South Korea's current missile-defense system has limits. If North Korea launches a missile toward South Korea at an altitude of higher than 100 kilometers, we are unable to intercept it," Nam said. "The South Korean government will not leave the situation as it is."

Nam, who also serves as a policy adviser at South Korea's defense ministry, said South Korea "can't help but deploying" the THAAD battery because the country's security is under threat from North Korea's missiles.

Nam called on China to "play a more active role" in persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Earlier this week, the Chinese ambassador to South Korea, Qiu Guohong, warned that, if South Korea allows the U.S. to deploy the THAAD battery on its soil, it would hurt Seoul-Beijing relations, a South Korean lawmaker said after meeting him.

The remarks by Qiu were quoted by Rep. Won Hye-young of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), who met the Chinese envoy in his capacity as the head of a parliamentary committee for the development of inter-Korean exchanges.

In spite of international sanctions, North Korea continues to pose security threats to Northeast Asia and beyond, by developing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

North Korea, which has conducted three nuclear tests since 2006, has threatened to conduct a new nuclear test in response to a U.N. resolution condemning its human rights violations.

South Korea and the U.S. have called on China to play a greater role in leading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, but Beijing's diplomacy still appears to put its priority on stability, rather than the denuclearization of North Korea.

kdh@yna.co.kr
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