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THAAD expected to hurt S. Korea-China's unified front against N. Korea

All News 13:55 September 29, 2016

SEOUL, Sept. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's push to deploy an advanced U.S. missile defense system could hurt its cooperation with China in dealing with North Korea's nuclear ambitions, a Chinese scholar said Thursday.

Jin Jingyi, a professor at Peking University, also predicted that the North will pursue mending its ties with China after securing the ability to make nuclear weapons, which can pose a serious challenge to South Korea if it remains at odds with Beijing.

South Korea and the U.S. announced a plan in July to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery on the peninsula by end-2017, drawing fierce opposition from China, which voices worries that it could hurt its strategic interests.

The decision has caused a drawn-out diplomatic row between the two neighbors, with some raising the possibility that it could derail their cooperation in making the North give up its nuclear ambitions.

"THAAD can serve as a drag on Seoul-Beijing relations," Jin told a forum held in Seoul to discuss North Korea-China relations and its implication on the Korean Peninsula.

"People say that to some extent the row has subsided ... but it has just started. Once the site for it is determined and its deployment actually starts, the bilateral ties could go through extreme pain," he said.

Saying the North seems to be in a rush to test its nuclear and missile technologies, the professor said all of the recent developments are showing that the communist country is trying to achieve its "objective" no matter what within this year.

"It must be tough (to conduct such repeated missile and nuclear tests) under the current sanctions. It does not have the wherewithal to conduct as many tests next year. It seems that the North is attempting to achieve its objective within this year," he said.

"The North can step up its diplomatic offensive after achieving what it wants. ... It could be a chance for the North to try to improve its ties with China. ... The likelihood is high that their relations will improve," he said, while drawing attention to its ramifications on South Korea, especially when the THAAD issue remains in the picture.

His concerns over THAAD are in stark contrast to those of a U.S. expert, who also attended the forum.

Bruce Klinger, senior research fellow of the Heritage Foundation, said the decision to deploy THAAD is a "sovereign right" that South Korea should base on its national security, adding that the right should not be compromised due to outside pressure.

"Seoul and Washington should make clear to Beijing that pressure tactics would be better applied to its ally North Korea, which has developed nuclear weapons and missiles that have caused South Korea and the U.S. to take defensive actions," he said.

On how to respond to the North's pursuit of nuclear weapons, the two also offered opposite views with the Chinese expert, expressing doubt over the effectiveness of focusing only on sanctions and pressure, and the U.S. researcher calling for stepped-up punitive measures.

"At present, any offer of economic inducements to entice North Korea to abandon its nuclear arsenal is an ill-conceived plan with little chance of success," Klinger said.

"The international consensus is that stronger sanctions must be imposed on North Korea for its serial violations of international agreements, U.N. resolutions and U.S. law," he added.

He said that Washington "must sharpen the choice for North Korea by raising the risk and cost for its actions," and also for those willing to "facilitate" Pyongyang's nuclear programs and illicit activities.


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