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China's heavy-handed opposition to THAAD could backfire: U.S. expert

All Headlines 07:57 February 16, 2015

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 (Yonhap) -- China's heavy-handed opposition to the possible deployment of a THAAD missile defense battery to South Korea could backfire and prompt greater public support in the South for a stronger alliance with the United States, an American expert said.

Scott Snyder, a senior researcher on Korea at the Council Foreign Relations, made the point in a recent article posted on the CFR website, saying it makes no sense for Beijing to demand Seoul refrain from bolstering its missile defense capabilities "in the face of a clear and expanding danger from North Korea."

China's opposition to THAAD also shows that it perceives the U.S.-South Korea alliance "as vulnerable and is trying to contain the capabilities" of the alliance, Snyder said, adding that Beijing's opposition is also "counterproductive" to building further trust with Seoul.

"In the end, China's effort to force South Korea to choose Beijing's preferences is likely to stimulate a backlash that will likely only lead to stronger South Korean public support for the U.S.-ROK alliance as a hedge against anxieties about the implications of China's rise for the future of the Korean Peninsula," he said.

The possibility of the U.S. deploying a THAAD battery in South Korea has been the focus of attention in Seoul because such a deployment is seen by critics as part of a broader U.S. attempt to get the Asian ally to join its missile defense system.

The deployment could inflame tensions with China and Russia because they see the move as a threat to their security interests. The two countries have repeatedly expressed concern and opposition at such a possibility in recent months.

Earlier this month, China's foreign ministry warned that a THAAD deployment to South Korea could undermine the "overall interest of bilateral relations" between Seoul and Beijing. The warning came days after China's defense minister expressed concerns about THAAD during talks with his South Korean counterpart.

Snyder stressed that North Korea is working hard to bolster its missile capabilities and test-fired a new anti-ship missile just days after Beijing's warning against a THAAD deployment in South Korea. That missile launch appears to be the beginning of a new missile testing season, he said.

The North conducted 19 separate missile tests involving over 111 projectiles last year, he said.

"North Korea's increased frequency of testing shows that North Korea sees the tests both as a form of protest against U.S.-ROK joint exercises and to enhance its own capacity to threaten South Korean assets by increasing the range and accuracy of its launch capabilities," the expert said.

jschang@yna.co.kr
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