Commentary: Clear THAAD hurdle for comeback of China-South Korea ties

Added On July 7, 2017

by Xinhua writer Lu Rui

BEIJING, July 6 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping met on Thursday with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in on the sidelines of the upcoming 12th summit of G20 in Hamburg, Germany, the first in-person meeting between them since Moon took office in May.

Just as expected, the issue of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, regarded as the biggest problem in Beijing-Seoul ties, tops the agenda of the meeting.

The installation of THAAD system by Seoul and Washington under the excuse of countering Pyongyang's growing military threats gravely harms the strategic security interests of regional countries including Russia and China.

It is clear to all that the system has failed to curb the nuclear ambitions of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Instead it encourages mistrust and suspicion, increases Pyongyang's sense of insecurity while compromising world efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

On Tuesday, the DPRK test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile, which it claims to be capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead, further dimming the prospects for breaking the impasse.

China and Russia have urged the DPRK to strictly abide by the UN Security Council resolutions. They also sent a warning that "any outsider should not increase its military deployment and presence in Northeast Asia under the excuse of opposing Pyongyang's nuclear and missile plans."

President Xi and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said the THAAD deployment in South Korea "concerns the strategic balance in the region."

Xi also said that Beijing and Moscow "will take necessary measures, jointly or individually, to safeguard their national security interests and the regional strategic balance."

Moon, who advocates both sanctions on Pyongyang and engagement with it, has stressed that no second Korean War could be allowed. Sure, Should war break out on the peninsula, it is Seoul and the South Korean people that would suffer destructive blows and THAAD would become the primary target for attacks from the North.

The snap decision on THAAD is a hot potato passed over by the conservative former President Park Geun-hye. The new government needs to positively seek a way out to shake off the burden, not instead ask for a suspension of counter-THAAD steps taken by countries concerned.

Moon has denied a cancellation of the U.S. battery while holding off the installation of another four launchers and ordering an environment impact assessment before its complete deployment. There is still time for his government to correct the ill-advised choice and thaw out the bilateral ties before too late.

Calling off THAAD installation and jump-starting denuclearization talks at an early date remain the most favorable solution to cooling down heightened tensions in the region, putting China-South Korea ties back on track and establishing long-lasting peace in Northeast Asia.

Tough call as it may be, it will serve the interests of all.