Questions over whether Kang Kyung-wha’s remarks presume THAAD will be deployed or not
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha speaks during a forum organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies at the Shilla Hotel in Seoul on June 26.
“Securing democratic and procedural legitimacy through an environmental impact assessment of the THAAD site will further strengthen public support for the THAAD deployment and ultimately strengthen the South Korea-US alliance.”
The remarks about the THAAD missile defense system made by South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha during a forum organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on June 26 have made an unusual impact. Compared to the remarks made by President Moon Jae-in during an interview with the Washington Post on June 20 in which he said that “carrying out an environmental impact assessment is not delaying the deployment or reversing the decision,” Kang’s remarks that the environmental impact assessment can “strengthen public support for the THAAD deployment” represent an even clearer expression of the assessment‘s intentions and effectiveness.
Some have observed that Kang’s statements do not make logical sense unless they tacitly presume that THAAD will be deployed. Saying that an environmental impact assessment “will further strengthen public support for the THAAD deployment” essentially means that the procedure of the assessment is being used as a way of assuaging anti-THAAD sentiment when the THAAD deployment is already taken for granted, they say. And since the Foreign Minister made these remarks at a sensitive time shortly before the South Korea-US summit, the remarks would naturally have been first cleared by the government.
But others think it’s a stretch to interpret Kang’s remarks as taking the THAAD deployment for granted. Except for the language about “public support,” Kang’s remarks are much the same as those made by Moon and by National Security Office Chief Chung Eui-yong, they point out. In fact, some of Kang’s remarks at the forum are identical to those made by Moon and Chung: “we have no intention of fundamentally changing promises made in the context of the South Korea-US alliance” and “carrying out the environmental impact assessment is a matter of domestic legal procedure.” Considering that the forum included American experts who harbor doubts about Seoul‘s commitment to implementing the agreement about THAAD, Kang may have been consciously trying to create an amiable atmosphere.
“‘Public support’ is an expression that Kang used during her hearing, too. I’m told that she prepared her remarks today based on Chung Eui-yong’s remarks on June 9 and on President Moon’s interview with the foreign media,” a Foreign Ministry official told the Hankyoreh during a telephone interview.
By Lee Se-young and Kim Ji-eun, staff reporters
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