South Korea has rejected China’s warning that a US missile system planned to be set up on Korean soil would harm relations between Seoul and Beijing.
“The deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is a measure of self-defense against growing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea,” presidential spokesman Jeong Yeon-guk said on Wednesday.
Jeong said the matter would be “decided in accordance with security and national interests,” adding that, “China will have to recognize the point.”
The remarks came after Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Qiu Guohong said on Tuesday that the installation of the THAAD system in South Korea could “destroy” Beijing-Seoul ties.
“It has taken much effort to develop China-South Korea ties to this degree. But these efforts could be destroyed in an instant because of one issue,” Qiu said, in reference to the planned missile system deployment.
Earlier on Tuesday, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said Washington and Seoul had put off the signing of a deal on setting up a joint committee to discuss the details of the deployment.
THAAD is designed to shoot down ballistic missiles in their terminal phase using a hit-to-kill approach.
Washington says the deployment of the missile system to the Korean Peninsula acts as a deterrent against North Korea’s ballistic missile program. Russia and China, however, say such a move would undermine stability on the restive Korean Peninsula.
In another Wednesday development, South Korea’s military warned the North to halt all “provocations,” saying such actions would only accelerate the “collapse” of the government in Pyongyang.
“We strongly urge North Korea to immediately halt provocative actions that are propelling it to destruction,” Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
The verbal volley came a day after the North Korean army, angry over forthcoming joint US-South Korean drills, threatened to attack South Korea’s presidential Blue House.
Pyongyang accuses Washington of plotting with regional allies to topple its government, and says it will not relinquish its nuclear arms unless the US ends its hostile policy toward North Korea and dissolves the US-led UN command in South Korea.
North Korea declared itself a nuclear power in 2005 and carried out four nuclear weapons tests in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2016. It also launched a long-range rocket earlier this month reportedly aimed at placing an earth observation satellite into orbit. However, the US and South Korea denounced the move as a cover for an intercontinental ballistic missile test.