Expert: Deploying THAAD the worst strategy for ROK

Source: China Military OnlineEditor: Zhang Tao
2016-08-02 18:05

BEIJING, August 4 (ChinaMil) -- The Republic of Korea (ROK) claimed that it agreed to deploy the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile battery in ROK "based on national interests", but this imprudent decision will cause multifold negative impacts on its national interests.

The ROK has always been clear-minded about its strategic position and remained a "balancer" in the complicated geostrategic landscape in Northeast Asia without taking sides with anyone or hurting anyone's interests easily.

As a result, different parties all wanted to rope in ROK to their side, and ROK was willing to reap gains from such a position while creating the leeway for it to play its unique role.

But the announcement to deploy the THAAD missile battery in it indicated that ROK had given up its usual ambiguous position and decided to take sides in the intensive game.

Against the background that regional strategic game is escalating and regional security landscape is going through in-depth adjustment, ROK is completely tied to the U.S. "chariot" and becomes the cat's-paw for America's Asia Pacific rebalancing strategy. The price that ROK has to pay is passive involvement in regional turmoil, squeezed room for` diplomatic activities and the loss of "strategic flexibility".

ROK's political and academic circles have serious divergences regarding the deployment of THAAD missile battery in the country, and the general public is strongly against it.

The ROK government made the decision so rashly that it didn't have the backing of a social consensus and aggravated the antagonism between arguing groups. This is proven by the fact that in the past few days, ROK's opposition parties, non-government groups and general public organized many demonstrations and protests, further escalating the confrontation among different parties.

In the meantime, after the mid-term election of ROK's National Assembly this year, it's very likely that opposition parties will hold more seats than the ruling party. The THAAD issue further stirred up the chaotic situation in ROK's political circle, and made it harder for different political forces to reconcile because of their growing antagonism.

If the Park Geun-hye administration insists on going its own way and forcing the deployment, it may cause all walks of life to thoroughly reflect on its domestic and foreign policies, and all kinds of potential conflicts that have piled up may break out together in a short period of time, leading to political turbulence, social disorder, and weakened and endangered administration.

Achieving reunification on the Korean Peninsula is the core interest of ROK and the strategic goal pursued by all ROK administrations, and ROK presidents in history all tried hard to leave their legacy on pushing forward the relations between Seoul and Pyongyang. When Park Geun-hye first came into office, she put forth a number of reconciliatory policies toward the DPRK, such as the "Trust-building Process on the Korean Peninsula" and the "Dresden Initiative", playing both the hard and soft balls to foster the south-north relations in multiple aspects.

However, as the periodic tension between Seoul and Pyongyang worsened, ROK took an ever tougher stance toward DPRK, such as suspending the Kaesong Industrial Complex, holding military drills targeting the DPRK with larger scale and higher frequency, and launching sanctions against DPRK either independently or in conjunction with the U.S. and Japan. As a result, ROK has gradually lost the flexibility in its DPRK policies.

The deployment of THAAD missile battery will aggravate this situation and take a serious toll on the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Deploying the THAAD missile battery in ROK will break regional strategic balance and seriously harm the strategic security interests of China and Russia, and they will not allow ROK to damage their national interests at will.

The ROK economy is highly reliant on China and the ROK-Russia energy and other cooperation projects are critical for it. Moreover, without China and Russia, ROK will never be able to independently solve the problems concerning its core and major interests, such as the Korean nuclear issue, reunification of the peninsula and maritime delimitation.

If the THAAD missile battery were to be deployed in ROK, the country would lose China and Russia's strong support to its political, economic, cultural and social development, and new uncertainties would arise in the peninsular strategic landscape, seriously undermining ROK's long-term interests.

The complexities and adverse effects mentioned above that will ensue the deployment of THAAD missile battery in ROK are not what the ROK government wishes to see. THAAD deployment is planned to be completed by the end of 2017, and there is room to turn the corner before that.

Many people with vision in the ROK have repeatedly called for a halt to the process of THAAD deployment, several major opposition parties have demanded a referendum on it, and a lot of residents are holding protests on the street. The Park Geun-hye administration is under heavy and lasting pressure, and we hope it can see its mistake and change its course at an early date.

By Chen Yue from the PLA Academy of Military Science

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