China and Russia are officially joining forces to fight against U.S. plans to deploy its controversial THAAD missile defense system in South Korea. Beijing and Moscow, which view America’s plans to deploy the THAAD system on the Korean Peninsula as a threat to their security interests, have agreed to intensify their efforts in opposition to it, which will reportedly be deployed and operational later this year.
One Wednesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry published on its website a warning message to U.S. President Donald Trump, whose stance on the THAAD remains vague. Officials wrote that they are joining forces with Russia to “strengthen their coordinated opposition to THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense).”
The announcement echoes a statement from Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday following a meeting between Beijing and Moscow’s top officials on foreign affairs, China’s assistant foreign minister, Kong Xuanyou, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov.
In Tuesday’s statement, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the two nations are teaming up against the U.S. missile system to “ease tensions and initiate the process of military and political detente across the board in Northeast Asia.” The statement added that with the deployment of the THAAD is South Korea, it will be impossible to “create conditions conducive to resolving the nuclear issue, as well as other issue, on the Korean Peninsula.”
China fears that the U.S. missile system will undermine its own ballistic missile capabilities, while Russia has repeatedly spoken out against it as well, warning of inevitable escalated tensions in the region. Both parties have warned of “consequences” if the THAAD is deployed in South Korea.
South Korea signs milestone deal to deploy THAAD
The strengthening of the two nations’ united front against the THAAD comes less than 24 hours after the South Korean government signed a milestone deal with retail giant Lotte. The land swap deal signed on Tuesday exchanged Lotto’s golf course in the Seongju region southeast of Seoul for military-owned land near the South Korean capital, Seoul.
The former golf course will be used for the THAAD, which is an advanced missile defense system that destroys short- to intermediate-range enemy missiles during their terminal flight phase. The missile system, which uses hit-to-kill technology to destroy missiles by kinetic energy, operates at a range of 200 km and can reach as high as 150 km of altitude. The THAAD missile system is equipped with the X-Band Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, a truck launcher and THAAD Fire Control.
The U.S. claims that it will use the system to intercept intermediate-range ballistic missiles from North Korea, which has stepped up its nuclear program in recent years. Last month, Pyongyang said it successfully test-fired a new medium- to long-range ballistic missile called the Pukguksong-2.
However, both Russia and China, which share a 4,209km-long border, are equally concerned that the THAAD will be also used as a deterrent not only against North Korea but also against them. The U.S. has repeatedly dismissed Russia’s and China’s fears.
China warns of “consequences” to protect “security interests”
While both Russia and China share Washington’s concerns about the ever-growing nuclear threat from North Korea and are equally interested in preventing a nuclear attack, the two allied nations feel very vulnerable and threatened by U.S. missiles at their borders.
Beijing has repeatedly urged Seoul and Washington to abandon their plans to deploy the THAAD system. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, warned South Korea and the U.S. of “consequences” if the land swap deal with Lotte was signed. Geng explained during a news briefing that the THAAD “severely disrupts regional strategic balance and jeopardizes the strategic security interests of regional countries including China.”
As the land swap agreement was given the green light by both Lotte and the South Korean government, Beijing was quick to create a formal opposition to the THAAD with Russia less than 24 hours after the deal was signed. Geng also warned that China would “definitely take necessary measures to safeguard its security interests.”
China has repeatedly attempted to disrupt U.S. and South Korean plans to deploy the missile system. Beijing halted Lotte’s multi-billion-dollar real estate project in China, which was interpreted in direct retaliation for the THAAD. Beijing has also banned several South Korean celebrities from entering China.
Russia’s anxiety about the THAAD system at its border stems from its belief that the U.S. missile defense system could negatively affect global strategic stability. Moscow has repeatedly urged Seoul and Washington not to go ahead with the deployment to prevent inevitably escalated tensions in the region.
Russian Ambassador to Seoul Aleksandr Timonin previously said that Moscow views the U.S. missile system as part of Washington’s plan to create a new regional segment of its vast global missile defense strategy. Timonin also called the THAAD a direct threat to Moscow’s security and America’s efforts to degrade the effectiveness of Russia’s missile potential.
However, the U.S. and South Korea continue to insist that the THAAD missile system is solely a defensive measure against North Korea and a deterrent against the nuclear-armed country. South Korean officials have said that the THAAD would be deployed and operational in 2017, with media sources claiming that the U.S. plans to deploy the missile system by August.
There were concerns in South Korea that Trump could abandon Washington’s plans to deploy the THAAD on the Korean Peninsula. Seoul’s concerns draw on the President’s previous statements, which included accusing South Korea of taking “a free ride” from the U.S.
During his presidential campaign, Trump urged Seoul to take care of its defense expenses and suggested that South Korea and Japan, America’s biggest allies in the region, should get nuclear weapons and defend themselves instead of relying on U.S. security guarantees.
However, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis assured South Korea that the U.S. is interested in continuing its full cooperation. While South Korea hopes that Washington still stands by its plans for the THAAD deployment, the closer we get to it, the closer China and Russia get together and the more united they stand against the U.S.