China has long been concerned about the Pentagon’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles, but since the US and the ROK announced a 2017 plan to deploy THAAD near the DMZ, China has taken a stronger and much more aggressive stance.
The US has repeatedly stated that the deployment of THAAD in South Korea will be “focused solely on North Korean nuclear and missile threats,” but China believes that the US and the ROK have hidden motives which threaten China and its friends.
During a regular Ministry of National Defense press briefing July 28, China’s Senior Colonel Yang Yujun said that Beijing is “deeply dissatisfied” and “firmly opposed” to the proposed THAAD deployment. He continued, “We will pay close attention to the relevant actions of the US and ROK and will take necessary measures to maintain national strategic security as well as regional equilibrium.”
At the monthly press briefing, Yang indicated that China is developing its own missile defense system. He stated that “to develop suitable capabilities of missile defense is necessary for China to maintain national security and improve defense capabilities.”
Yang’s statements on THAAD and China’s missile defense capabilities suggest that China is preparing to take action in order to shift the regional balance of power in its favor. What is troubling for the US and the ROK is that China may not do this alone.
At the fourth China-Russia Northeast Asia security consultation in Moscow last Thursday, China and Russia agreed to “proactively consider strengthening bilateral coordinating measures” to counter the threat posed by THAAD. During the meeting, Chinese and Russian representatives argued that the deployment of THAAD “will exert negative influence upon the strategic balance, security and stability in the world and in the region.”
On numerous occasions, China has indicated that THAAD is a threat to Chinese national security and the strategic balance in the region. China is also concerned that putting too much pressure on the DPRK, which also voiced its displeasure with THAAD this past weekend, will cause regime instability and create a crisis on its northern border.
At the fifth World Peace Forum held in mid-July, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui said that the coverage and capabilities of THAAD would exceed the needs of the Korean Peninsula and undermine the strategic and security interests of other regional actors. Zhang also argued that this missile defense system will “harm the strategic balance in the region” and “aggravate the armament race,” severely impacting regional and global stability.
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