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366. Overall Outlook of THAAD

Jeong, Ye-eun 기자2017.05.12 00:17:24


On February 28, 2017, the Ministry of National Defense made an agreement with the Lotte Corporation, which decided to offer land for the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). In response to this agreement, China has been taking various economic, diplomatic, and military measures against the Korean government as well as Lotte, and these are expected to affect the Korean economy a lot. This conflict between Korea and China about deploying THAAD seems set to continue for quite a while. But why is China against the deployment and how are the stances of each country related to THAAD different?


The Background of THAAD


The U.S. decided to deploy THAAD in the United States Force Korea (USFK) because North Korea has repeatedly carried out nuclear and ballistic missile tests. There are two perspectives in understanding the background of installing THAAD. First, deploying THAAD is the matter of ‘limited war’, in which the concept of war is used as a way of carrying through a political policy. That is, the reason for installing THAAD is to encourage political negotiation, not to start actual war with North Korea. By installing THAAD, the U.S aims to defend the Republic of Korea (ROK) against the missiles of North Korea and maintain peace among East Asian countries. Secondly, the other perspective regards the conflicts surrounding THAAD as a hegemonic competition between the U.S. and China. The deployment of THAAD is interpreted as an attempt by the U.S. to check China by enhancing the alliance between the U.S, Korea, and Japan.


Positions of Korea and China


Currently, China is against the deployment of THAAD. This is because there is a possibility of the military bases in China being monitored by the U.S. through the long-range radar attached to THAAD, which can threaten China’s military strength. Since THAAD is part of a missile defense system in which Korea, Japan, and the U.S. form an alliance, installing THAAD in Korea would be an obstacle for China in terms of getting the upper hand in its hegemonic competition with the U.S.

What are the positions of Korea? First, monitoring China’s military bases through THAAD is justifiable, because there are also radar installations in China that can monitor Korea’s military bases. Those located at Heilongjiang in China can detect bases not only over the whole area of Korea but also some parts of the U.S. and Russia. The detective distance of the radar is even longer than that of THAAD. In addition, China’s stance was considered to some extent by locating THAAD in Seongju-gun, because this location makes the detective distance for China the shortest among the other regions. Secondly, the fundamental purpose of THAAD is to monitor the nuclear weapons and missiles in North Korea and prevent its military threats, not to monitor China’s military bases. In terms of the background of deploying THAAD, China is responsible for the result of THAAD deployment to some extent because it has kept a passive attitude toward restraining North Korea. There are some opinions that this kind of attitude has caused North Korea to pose its military threats. As we can see from these three countries’ positions, the matter of THAAD depends on the situation of each country, causing some conflicts such as the revenge measures of China.


Things the Korean Government Can Do

: An Interview with Professor Lee, Jeong-tae


For now, considering that ROK is in alliance with the U.S. and has continued its ceasefire with North Korea, the deployment of THAAD and the current troubled relationship with China seems inevitable. Then, what can the Korean government do to cope with the conflicts with China? The KNU Times interviewed professor Lee, Jeong-tae in the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy to get advice related to this question. First of all, he said that utilizing the weak points of China would have some effect on restraining it. For example, China has had troubles integrating ethnic minorities and dealing with their requirements for independence, such as in Taiwan and Tibet. The Korean government should cooperate with these two.

In addition, varying the formation of alliances with other countries other than the U.S. may also be another solution. Some appropriate countries would be those in Southeast Asia, because the current conditions ROK is facing due to China can also happen to those nations as well. Therefore, persuading them to prepare measures against China’s revenge together would be needed. Likewise, enhancing the partnership with India would also be an effective solution. The population, economic and military power of India have been continuously growing. According to the professor, among the countries near Korea, there is no other country that can be compared to China in terms of national power, so an alliance with India would be helpful in dealing with China.


Professor Lee, Jeong-tae said it is important to think of deploying THAAD not as creating an atmosphere of warfare but as an effort in preserving peace in Northeast Asia. Furthermore, he said we should keep in mind that the fundamental cause of THAAD is North Korea, so the Korean government needs to increase its diplomatic power regarding this matter. The positions of each country surrounding the deployment of THAAD currently seem to be in a conflicting relationship, but from a long-term perspective, both China and Korea cannot help going forward together in an international society.

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