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(LEAD) China says S. Korea has vowed to limit THAAD operation, heralding continued diplomatic row

Diplomacy 22:06 August 10, 2022

(ATTN: ADDS South Korean foreign ministry's remarks in paras 11-12)

BEIJING/SEOUL, Aug. 10 (Yonhap) -- The Chinese government said Wednesday that South Korea has even pledged to limit the operation of the advanced U.S. missile defense system positioned on its soil in addition to the so-called "Three No's" principle on the THAAD issue.

Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for Beijing's foreign ministry, made the assertion, which runs counter to the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol administration's position on the matter, during a press briefing, a day after the talks between the top diplomats of the neighboring countries in the eastern Chinese port city of Qingdao.

The THAAD issue was discussed in five hours of talks between Foreign Minister Park Jin and his counterpart, Wang Yi.

The two sides agreed on efforts to deal with the thorny matter so that it won't be a stumbling block to bilateral ties any more. Still, relevant disputes are apparently going on.

At issue is whether the Yoon government, which was launched in May, needs to inherit the three-no approach of the preceding liberal Moon Jae-in administration -- no additional THAAD deployment in Korea, no participation in a U.S.-led missile defense network and no involvement in a trilateral military alliance with Japan.

Heading back to Seoul following his three-day trip to China, Seoul's foreign minister told reporters he made clear in talks with Wang that it is "neither a (formal) agreement (with China) nor a promise." It means the three-no principle is not binding for the Yoon administration, which has signaled a push for expanding the use of the THAAD system in South Korea in a bid to counter growing security threats from North Korea.

Park added he had clarified that THAAD is a "means for self-defense" against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats, and that it is a matter of South Korea's security-related sovereignty.

However, the spokesperson for Beijing's foreign ministry reiterated that Seoul should maintain the three-no policy, which was "sworn formally," along with a promise to restrict the operation of the THAAD battery that has been based in South Korea since 2017.

"(We) would like to point out that the U.S. deployment of THAAD to South Korea clearly harms China's strategic security interests," he said. "China has expressed concern to the South Korean side several times."

South Korea's foreign ministry expressed displeasure over the Chinese government's remarks on THAAD, saying the issue will become an obstacle to bilateral ties if Beijing continues to raise it.

During the foreign ministers' talks, Park emphasized the THAAD issue will "only act as a stumbling block to bilateral relations" if China continues to raise the matter, the ministry said.

THAAD is the acronym for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system designed to shoot down ballistic missiles in their terminal phase. It uses cutting-edge radar.

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