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S. Korea-China defense talks expose gap over THAAD deployment

All News 21:20 June 04, 2016

By Park Boram

SINGAPORE, June 4 (Yonhap) -- China expressed its uncompromising opposition to South Korea moving forward with the deployment of a sophisticated U.S. air defense shield on its soil during their high-level defense talks on Saturday, the latest sign that the issue will likely remain a thorn in the otherwise close relationship between the two neighboring countries.

"China presented its previous stance on Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)," South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo said after his meeting with China's deputy chief of the joint staff Adm. Sun Jianguo on the sidelines of Asia Security Summit in Singapore.

The Chinese official indicated that the deployment of THAAD infringes China's strategic interests, Han said.

Seoul's defense chief said he expressed his view that Beijing is overstating the significance of THAAD's possible deployment, making clear he did not share Chinese position on this matter.

The top policymaker quoted himself as telling Sun "The discussion of THAAD deployment originated in a move to defend against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats." Han also offered to provide technical descriptions of the U.S. defense system to defuse any Chinese security anxieties.

"The key point is that the discussion regarding THAAD is aimed at North Korea's nuclear and missile threats that are becoming more sophisticated," the minister told reporters.

The difference in views provided the latest sign yet that the major economic partners will have to walk a tricky path in the run-up to South Korea's push to deploy the missile system.

China has not failed to express its indignation over South Korea's position since Seoul and Washington openly entertained the idea of bringing in a THAAD battery into the South.

On Feb. 7, South Korea and its main ally officially announced they will launch negotiations on the deployment, with a joint working group currently in discussion on when and where to put the defense system in place.

Apart from this highly sensitive issue, Han voiced his gratitude on China's efforts to implement a United Nations Security Council resolution which was adopted in early March to punish North Korea for its fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range test the month after, the defense ministry said.

It said Sun highlighted how important it is for China to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, also repeating China's full support for denuclearization.

The two officials shared the understanding that their countries need to further carry out strategic dialogue and cooperation between their militaries that include such endeavors as joint search and rescue drills, the ministry added.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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