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Russia engages with China on THAAD

(Global Times)    08:34, August 12, 2016

Moscow suggests US rethinks NK threat

China and Russia are discussing a proposal to prevent the further escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the Russian ambassador told media, which experts say indicates that the two countries are growing closer in the face of the deployment of a US missile defense system that has altered the fragile geopolitical balance in Northeast Asia.

The Russian Embassy in Beijing confirmed the proposal with the Global Times on Thursday, adding that it was mentioned by Russian Ambassador Andrey Denisov in an interview with Russian media.

China's foreign ministry has yet to confirm the existence of a joint proposal.

No other details have been released, but Denisov told Russian newspaper Izvestia that Russia believes the US and South Korea should at least control the scale of their joint military drills if they cannot cancel the exercises.

He said tensions have escalated to a severe level and Russia believes measures should be taken to at least prevent it from further deteriorating, Izvestia reported Thursday.

Russia suggested the US, Japan and South Korea re-evaluate the threat level of North Korean military capabilities, which they could be exaggerating, Denisov told Izvestia.

"The deployment of the THAAD (Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense) system is driving China and Russia to move closer to each other to counter pressure from the US and the unstable factors on the Korean Peninsula," Wu Enyuan, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

Wu said it is too early to say whether the situation would slide into "a new Cold War," but the THAAD deployment has broken the fragile strategic balance in the geopolitically volatile Northeast Asian region.

"It raises the possibility of confrontation to a new level, with the US, South Korea and Japan on one side and China, Russia and North Korea on the other. If anything happens, conflicts are likely to spill beyond the Korean Peninsula," he noted.

South Korea declared last month it had agreed to deploy the controversial US missile defense system as a countermeasure against North Korean weapons tests, drawing strong criticism from China and Russia.

The THAAD system, when implemented with the AN/TPY-2 long-range radar, is capable of spying on activities in neighboring countries' territory. It also dampens China's strategic nuclear missile deterrence capacity, a key part of China's national security.

"China could always increase the number of its nuclear weapons and improve their performance to rebuild the strategic balance between China and the US ruined by the THAAD deployment," Wu Riqiang, an international affairs scholar at the Renmin University of China, wrote to the Global Times on Thursday. "However, through this process, Sino-South Korean relations will be seriously damaged."

THAAD in Japan?

Meanwhile, the Japanese Defense Ministry is inclined to hasten efforts to deploy a THAAD battery in the wake of North Korea's recent missile launches, Chosun Ilbo quoted NHK as saying.

A North Korean Rodong missile fell into Japan's exclusive economic zone on August 3.

"We cannot eliminate the possibility of another THAAD deployment in Japan in the future. However, by releasing the news at this time, Japan wishes to kill two birds with one stone - to show its support for the US deployment in South Korea and to test China's and Russia's response to its own purchase of a THAAD battery," Da Zhigang, director of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Wu Enyuan said that with THAAD deployments in South Korea and Japan, US moves will be interpreted as an attempt to forge an "Asian NATO."

The THAAD deployment has damaged mutual trust between China and South Korea, and China and the US.

On Thursday, US Missile Defense Agency director James D. Syring said in South Korea that the THAAD deployment is strictly meant to protect South Korea and will not be used against China. He added that THAAD in the Korean Peninsula will not be part of the US' wider missile defense network, the Korean Herald reported. But analysts said China is unconvinced by the statement alone.

China is deeply suspicious that the US' pivot to Asia strategy is aimed at containing it.

"The key to resolving issues on the Korean Peninsula rests on the US. If the US is willing to extend an olive branch to North Korea like it did to Iran, tensions would be eased in a week. Neither China nor Russia holds such a huge sway on North Korea," Da said. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor: Yuan Can,Bianji)

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