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Shangri-La Dialogue highlights deepening S. Korea-China row over THAAD

All News 14:25 June 05, 2016

By Park Boram

SINGAPORE, June 5 (Yonhap) -- China opposes South Korea and the United States' plans to deploy the advanced American THAAD air defense shield on the Korean Peninsula, China's military No. 2 once again made it clear during an annual regional forum in Singapore on Sunday, which became the latest venue to expose a deepening South Korea-China row over the defense system.

"China is opposed to the ongoing U.S. moves to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea," China's deputy chief of the general staff department Sun Jianguo said in a plenary session of the Asia Security Summit, known also as the Shangri-La Dialogue.

"This will erode the security of the (Asia-Pacific) region," the admiral said in his capacity as China's top representative to the annual security forum.

"As a soldier myself, I am well aware of the meaning of (the deployment). Deploying THAAD in the Korean Peninsula is an excessive measure that by far exceeds current U.S. defense capabilities," he noted.

The Asia Pacific region should reject the Cold War-era mindset and move in a way to intensify and deepen security cooperation, Sun also said.

"Non-conflict, non-confrontation as well as non-targeting for a third country should be pursued," he added, apparently accusing the U.S. of zeroing in on China.

It was one of several awkward moments of tension brewing between South Korea and China over the THAAD system, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, during the three-day forum which was set to close its three-day run later in the day.

South Korea-China defense chiefs' talks held a day earlier exposed the deepening bilateral row over the issue once again.

In the half-hour meeting with Defense Minister Han Min-koo, Sun brought up China's indignation with the deployment move, protesting that a deployment of THAAD infringes on China's strategic interests.

Seoul's defense chief countered the opposition, saying, "The discussion of THAAD deployment originated in a move to defend against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats."

Han stressed that "THAAD would only be aimed at North Korea's nuclear and missile threats that are becoming more sophisticated."

In his speech during a separate plenary session on Saturday, the South Korean official made his country's stance even more clear by saying that the country "undoubtedly has the will to deploy THAAD."

In the speech, Han also poured himself into mustering international support for the ongoing South Korean initiative to denuclearize North Korea with sanctions and pressure.

"The Republic of Korea (South Korea) will not cling to such meaningless dialogue," the defense minister said, referring to Seoul's recent rejection of Pyongyang's proposals for working-level military talks.

"I put my emphasis on the fact that in order to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea, the international community should unite together to implement sanctions and pressure North Korea thoroughly," Han later told reporters.

In a trilateral meeting, Han, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani reaffirmed Saturday their commitment to work together to counter North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.

The defense ministers from the three countries came to an understanding that the partners "are facing common challenges, including North Korea's nuclear and missile threats" and forged a pledge to step up military collaboration under the three-way framework, especially on the crucial sector of information sharing on North Korean security threats.

In a separate meeting that day, Nakatani proposed forging a military intelligence sharing pact, but Han shrugged that off by saying, "Paving the way to lay the foundation for the GSOMIA is (more) important," a comment in reflection of still unfavorable sentiments in South Korea over forging the sensitive military deal with the former colonial ruler.

These were rare moments in the defense ministerial-level meeting occasioned by the Shangri-La Dialogue which brought together some 500 defense and diplomatic officials and experts from 52 countries, including defense ministers from 23 out of all participant nations.


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