‘Shocked’ South Korea leader orders probe into U.S. THAAD additions


FILE PHOTO: A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters/File Photo

By Heekyong Yang and Ju-min Park | SEOUL Tue May 30, 2017 | 5:51pm EDT

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has ordered a probe after his Defence Ministry failed to inform him that four more launchers for the controversial U.S. THAAD anti-missile system had been brought into the country, his spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system battery was initially deployed in March in the southeastern region of Seongju with just two of its maximum load of six launchers to counter a growing North Korean missile threat.

During his successful campaign for the May 9 presidential election, Moon called for a parliamentary review of the system, the deployment of which infuriated China, North Korea’s lone major ally.

“President Moon said it was very shocking” to hear the four additional launchers had been installed without being reported to the new government or to the public, presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan told a media briefing.

Moon had campaigned on a more moderate approach to Pyongyang, calling for engagement even as the reclusive state pursues nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions and threats of more sanctions.

The Pentagon said it had been “very transparent” with South Korea’s government about THAAD deployment. “We continue to work very closely with the Republic of Korea government and we have been very transparent in all of our actions throughout this process,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis told a news briefing.

Separately on Tuesday, the U.S. military cheered a successful, first-ever missile defense test involving a simulated attack by an intercontinental ballistic missile, a major milestone for a program meant to defend the United States against North Korea.

The Missile Defense Agency said it was the first live-fire test against a simulated ICBM for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD), a separate system from THAAD, and called it an “incredible accomplishment.” [L1N1IW1MM]

CHINA TENSIONS EASING

Moon’s order of a probe into the THAAD launchers came amid signs of easing tensions between South Korea and China, a major trading partner.

China has been incensed over the THAAD deployment, fearing it could enable the U.S. military to see into its own missile systems and open the door to wider deployment, possibly in Japan and elsewhere, military analysts say.

South Korean companies have faced product boycotts and bans on Chinese tourists visiting South Korea, although China has denied discrimination against them.

On Tuesday, South Korea’s Jeju Air said China had approved a plan for it to double its flights to the Chinese city of Weihai from June 2.

Also, a Korean-Chinese joint drama production “My Goddess, My Mom” starring South Korean actress Lee Da-hae was told by its Chinese partner recently that it will soon be aired, according to Lee’s agent JS Pictures. Previously its broadcast had been indefinitely delayed.

An official at South Korean tour agency Mode Tour told Reuters it hoped China may lift a ban on selling trips to South Korea, which had been in place since March 15, as early as the second week of June. Although there had been no official orders from the Chinese government to lift the ban, a few Chinese travel agencies have sent inquiries about package tours, he said. However, South Korea’s Lotte Group has yet to reopen any of the 74 retail stores in China it was forced to close in March after the group allowed the installation of the THAAD system on land it owned.

BOMBER DRILL

The United States, which has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, has a mutual defence treaty with Seoul dating back to the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce that has left the peninsula in a technical state of war.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry said on Tuesday it had conducted a joint drill with a U.S. supersonic B-1B Lancer bomber on Monday, which North Korea’s state media earlier described as “a nuclear bomb-dropping drill”.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talked to Moon by phone on Tuesday and told him that dialogue for dialogue’s sake with North Korea would be meaningless, and that China’s role in exerting pressure on the North was important, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

North Korea’s KCNA news agency reported that leader Kim Jong Un supervised the country’s latest missile test on Monday. It said the missile had a new precision guidance system and a new mobile launch vehicle.

Kim said North Korea would develop more powerful weapons to defend against the United States.

“He expressed the conviction that it would make a greater leap forward in this spirit to send a bigger ‘gift package’ to the Yankees” in retaliation for American military provocation, KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

(Additional reporting by Jack Kim, Hyunjoo Jin, Christine Kim and Suyeong Lee in Seoul, Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo and Phil Stewart and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Writing by Bill Tarrant; Editing by Nick Macfie and James Dalgleish)

Source: Reuters “’Shocked’ South Korea leader orders probe into U.S. THAAD additions”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China says willing to put South Korea ties back on track, urges THAAD resolution


South Korean special envoy Lee Hae-chan (L) meets China’s President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China May 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee

By Ben Blanchard | BEIJING Fri May 19, 2017 | 4:51am EDT

China wants to put ties with South Korea back on a “normal track”, President Xi Jinping said on Friday, but Beijing also urged Seoul to respect its concerns and resolve tensions over the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system that it opposes.

Relations between Beijing and Seoul, strained by disagreement over South Korea’s hosting of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, have taken on a more conciliatrory tone with the election earlier this month of President Moon Jae-in.

Xi told Moon’s representative Lee Hae-chan on Friday that his visit showed the importance the new South Korean leader attached to relations with Beijing.

“China, too, pays great attention to the bilateral ties,” Xi said in comments in front of reporters in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

“We’re willing to work with South Korea to preserve the hard-won results, properly handle disputes, put China-South Korea relations back onto a normal track and benefit both peoples on the basis of mutual understanding and mutual respect,” he said.

Lee gave Xi a hand-written letter from the popular, liberal Moon, who easily won election earlier this month to replace Park Geun-hye, who was ousted in a corruption scandal.

“President Moon said he hopes I’d also pass on his gratitude to you for your message of congratulation and the telephone call after he was elected,” Lee said, before reporters were asked to leave the room.

According to the official Xinhua news agency, Xi told Lee: “China is willing to strengthen communication with the new South Korean government… (and) continue to push for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.”

In a separate meeting with Lee on Friday, China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi said China “hopes that South Korea can respect China’s major concerns (and) appropriately resolve the THAAD issue,” Xinhua reported.

INFURIATED

China has been infuriated by the U.S. deployment of the THAAD system in South Korea, saying it was a threat to its security and would do nothing to ease tensions with Pyongyang.

The United States and South Korea have said the deployment is aimed purely at defending against any threat from North Korea, which experts have thought for months is preparing for its sixth nuclear test in defiance of United Nations sanctions.

South Korea has complained that some of its companies doing business in China have faced discrimination in retaliation for the THAAD deployment.

However, Xi’s comments helped push up the shares of several South Korean companies that rely on the spending of Chinese tourists, whose visits have fallen sharply amid the THAAD dispute.

Shares in Lotte Shopping (023530.KS) reversed earlier losses to rise 1.5 percent, while Hotel Shilla (008770.KS), South Korea’s second-largest duty free store operator, rose 2.8 percent. Shares in AmorePacific (090430.KS), its largest cosmetics firm, were up 0.9 percent.

The North has vowed to develop a missile mounted with a nuclear warhead that can strike the mainland United States, saying the program is necessary to counter U.S. aggression. The threat from Pyongyang presents U.S. President Donald Trump with one of his greatest security challenges.

The United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea to guard against the North Korean threat, has called on China to do more to rein in its ally and neighbor. Trump and Moon have both also warned that a major conflict with the North is possible.

Moon sent envoys to the United States, China, Japan and the European Union this week in what the government calls “pre-emptive diplomacy”. His envoy for Russia will leave next week.

Before leaving Seoul for Beijing, Lee said Moon could meet Xi as early as July at a Group of 20 summit in Germany, while a separate meeting could also be possible in August.

(For a graphic on North Korea’s nuclear program, click tmsnrt.rs/2n0gd92 )

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Christian Shepherd in BEIJING; Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by Stephen Coates and Paul Tait)

Source: Reuters “China says willing to put South Korea ties back on track, urges THAAD resolution”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Top South Korean presidential candidate would review THAAD process: advisers


The Democratic Party’s candidate for the presidential primary Moon Jae-in makes a speech at an event to declare their fair contest in the partyÕs presidential primary in Seoul, South Korea, March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

By Yeganeh Torbati and James Pearson | SEOUL Fri Mar 17, 2017 | 6:19pm EDT

The liberal South Korean politician most likely to become the country’s next president would, if elected, review how the government would deploy an advanced U.S. missile defense system and would consult China, two of his top advisers said on Friday.

If Moon Jae-in, front-runner for the May 9 presidential election, reverses policy on the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system, it will place him at odds with the United States, South Korea’s biggest ally.

The conservative government of impeached president Park Geun-hye agreed to deploy the THAAD to guard against attack by North Korea, but the decision sparked outrage in China, which responded with restrictions on some companies doing business with and in South Korea.

China says the system’s radar can be used to spy into its territory.

Moon would likely “do a review of the validity of the decision”, Choi Jong Kun, an adviser to Moon on foreign policy told Reuters. “While doing it, he will consult with the United States, as well as China.”

“At the end of the day, if the reality unfolds in a way that South Korea’s national security and the economy were damaged because of the THAAD, not because of the North Korea issue, then it’s not really a rational situation, is it?”

The comments are at variance with a tough stand taken by the new U.S. administration on North Korea.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, visiting Seoul for the first time since taking office, said on Friday a U.S. policy of “strategic patience” with North Korea has ended and military action would be “on the table” if North Korea if Pyongyang took action to threaten South Korean and U.S. forces.

Tillerson also said he expected the next South Korean government would “continue to be supportive” of THAAD.

A Pentagon spokesman said THAAD deployment was “a critical measure” to defend South Koreans and U.S. forces against North Korean missiles.

China is South Korea’s largest trading partner and the dispute over THAAD has left shopping districts in Seoul devoid of their usual crowds of Chinese tourists.

In China, the row has led to a freeze of South Korean television dramas and music, and product boycotts.

Moon, a liberal facing little in the way of a significant conservative challenger, said in a debate this week China should stop the economic retaliation and South Korea had to make diplomatic efforts to assuage Chinese anger.

“It’s only right for the THAAD deployment issue to be decided by the next administration,” Moon told foreign media recently.

RAPPROCHEMENT

A 63-year-old human rights lawyer, Moon has said he will extend an olive branch to North Korea if elected and visit Pyongyang before making a trip to the United States.

Just two North-South summits have been held since the 1950-53 Korean war.

Choi said the decision to deploy the THAAD battery had been made hastily. China’s reaction was foreseeable and yet was largely ignored by Park’s government, he said.

“We had a strategic partnership with Beijing, until this THAAD issue,” Choi said. “Our relationship had been pretty OK and pretty good.”

Kim Ki-Jung, another foreign policy adviser to Moon, said he had tried to convince U.S. military officials and diplomats in Washington last month that the deployment of the THAAD should be left to the leader who succeeds Park.

“We are going to acknowledge that two governments made an agreement … but the actual process of deployment, that should be given to the next government,” he said.

Instead, the United States started to deploy the first elements of the system this month, after North Korea fired off four ballistic missiles into the sea off northwest Japan.

Moon has criticized the two former conservative presidents – Park and her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak – for derailing progress made in inter-Korean relations under previous liberal administrations.

He calls for a “two-step” approach on North Korea, with talks leading to “economic unification” and ultimately “political and military unification.”

His viewpoints could spark friction with Washington, but Moon would have no problem distancing South Korea’s interests from those of the United States, Kim said.

“The basic assumption is that we are going to maintain the success of our bilateral alliance,” Kim said.

“We are going to keep it … as long as we admit that South Korea is not the 51st state of the United States. We are an independent country, we have our own national interest, and we should have our own foreign policy strategy.”

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Robert Birsel and Raju Gopalkrishnan)

Source: Reuters “Top South Korean presidential candidate would review THAAD process: advisers”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Top South Korean presidential candidate demands China stop retaliation over THAAD


The Democratic Party’s candidate for the presidential primary Moon Jae-in makes a speech at an event to declare their fair contest in the partyÕs presidential primary in Seoul, South Korea, March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

By Jack Kim and Christine Kim | SEOUL Tue Mar 14, 2017 | 3:23am EDT

The South Korean politician expected to become its next president, Moon Jae-in, called on China on Tuesday to stop economic retaliation against South Korean firms over the deployment of a U.S. missile-defense system.

Moon, speaking in a debate with other presidential contenders from the main opposition Democratic Party, said South Korea must stand up to China and protest against any unjust moves, but also make diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue.

“We should complain about what needs to be complained about and we should make diplomatic efforts to persuade China,” Moon said.

“It is also not desirable for China to harm our relationship with excessive retaliation,” Moon said.

“I call on China to immediately stop”.

China has increased pressure, and imposed some restrictions, on some companies doing business with and in South Korea, which many in South Korea perceive as retaliation for deployment of the missile system.

But Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho said on Monday that South Korea did not have firm evidence of Chinese retaliation and China has not directly said it is targeting South Korean firms.

South Korea will hold a presidential election by May 9 after the impeachment and dismissal last week of its former president, Park Geun-hye.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system is likely to be contentious issues in the campaign.

Moon, a human rights lawyer and prominent liberal politician who has been leading in opinion polls, said the government had mishandled the deployment plan by rushing into it and without public consensus.

China is vehemently opposed to South Korea’s agreement with the United States to deploy the THAAD system in the South against North Korea’s missile threat.

The United States and South Korea say THAAD is for defense against North Korea, but China fears its powerful radar can probe deep into its territory and compromise its security.

The United States began to deploy the system a week ago, a day after North Korea test-fired four missiles.

Russia also worries the deployment could compromise its security, and said it would lead to a stalemate on the Korean peninsula.

(Writing by James Pearson; Editing by Robert Birsel and Michael Perry)

Source: Reuters “Top South Korean presidential candidate demands China stop retaliation over THAAD”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.