China may ask South Korea to choose: THAAD, or bilateral relations

Posted on : 2016-08-25 17:26 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Two sides still at odds over South Korea’s THAAD deployment decision, but negotiations still a possibility
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi forcefully called on South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se on Aug. 24 to withdraw Seoul’s current plans to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system with US Forces Korea.

But Wang also proposed working toward a compromise on the deployment issue that would be acceptable to both sides.

Following bilateral talks with Yun at the Prince Park Tower Hotel in Tokyo that morning, Wang told reporters, “China stated its basic position on relations with South Korea, and Minister Yun Byung-se clearly expressed [South Korea’s] support for China in ensuring that the G20 Summit is a success.”

In response to subsequent questions about THAAD, Wang reiterated Beijing’s adamant stance against it.

“We mentioned the THAAD issue [at the talks], and China maintained its position of resolute opposition to a THAAD deployment in South Korea. We do not wish to see this issue having a sweeping effect on friendly collaboration between China and South Korea,” he said.

The remarks were read as signaling China‘s willingness to break with diplomatic practice to send a hard-line message - effectively forcing Seoul to choose between THAAD or relations with Beijing.

But Wang also voiced hope for a comfortable resolution to the issue.

“We hope China and South Korea will hold discussions to find a solution that is acceptable to both parties,” he said.

During his meeting with Yun, Wang was reported by the Chinese Foreign Ministry as saying, “South Korea may do a cold comparison of the pros and cons when it faces China, but we should not be taking different roads,” and that the two sides “should work together on finding a compromise that is acceptable to everyone.”

With his statements on Aug. 24, Wang went even further than at foreign minister talks with Yun in Vientiane on July 24. There, Wang said expressed “dismay” over South Korea’s actions on THAAD, which he said had “hurt the foundations of mutual trust.” With his recent remarks, he raised the level of warning after seeing little sign of a change in attitude from Seoul.

Meanwhile, Wang was quoted by Japan‘s NHK network commenting the same day on North Korea’s launch of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

“It is undesirable, as it further raises tensions and complicates the situation,” he said.

At the same time, he added that “joint military exercises by the US and South Korea have in some respects provoked North Korea.”

But in an apparent reflection of the role of North Korea‘s nuclear and missile programs in harming China’s strategic interests - as with the THAAD deployment in South Korea - Wang reiterated Beijing’s standard position on the nuclear issue following his trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting with South Korea and Japan.

“China is opposed to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development. China’s consistent position has been [in favor of] denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, resolution of problems through dialogue, and maintaining the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula,” he said.

By Gil Yun-hyung and Kim Oi-hyun, Tokyo and Tokyo correspondents, Lee Je-hun, staff reporter

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