Claim that Beijing wants a wall to block THAAD ‘unlikely’
Expert says Beijing is unlikely to have had made such a strange request, and a decision on whether to build it might depend on the US, not Seoul
Beijing wants to install “a wall” near the site of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery (THAAD) to shield its radar from scanning targets in north and northeast of China, the Seoul-based JoongAng Ilbo (Central Times) revealed last week, citing a source close to the South Korean Foreign Ministry.
The proposal to build the wall – on the west and northwest sides of the THAAD site in Seongju County in North Gyeongsang province – was part of demands by Beijing before it will restore bilateral ties to an amicable level, like prior to Seoul’s move to install the US-led THAAD system, the newspaper said.
Beijing’s demands also include being allowed to inspect the site and Seoul’s offer to share intelligence, among others.
The claims have been denied by both Beijing and Seoul.
A Blue House spokesperson noted that President Moon Jae-in’s stance is that talks between leaders of both countries should occur before any detailed negotiations with the Chinese military about the THAAD question and that Beijing should also show its goodwill for a thaw in bilateral ties.
Previously, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha that vocal guarantees aside, Seoul must take concrete actions to reassure Beijing and its neighbors.
After three years of indecision, Seoul agreed last year to install the anti-ballistic missile system, after Washington deployed four such systems on its own soil and two X-Band radars in Japan. South Korea, however, had long been seen as the “missing piece”.
Seoul had wanted to also acquire the US hit-to-kill interceptors to shield the nation from Pyongyang’s missiles but was wary that the move would anger China.
Beijing and Moscow tried to dissuade Seoul, warning in a joint statement last year that the THAAD would “jeopardize neighboring countries’ legitimate security interests and that of the entire region”.
So, Seoul’s final decision to install the US system, which can blast incoming missiles out of the sky allegedly with a 100% success rate, must have exasperated Beijing.
All six THAAD launch vehicles have been activated in South Korea since September.
Missile expert Yang Chengjun told Global Times that installing a wall to block a radar from prying on Chinese soil was a “ludicrous” idea as the THAAD system is highly portable when mounted on a launching vehicle, and the radars were rotatable.
Yang said even if Seoul was prepared to allow a wall to be built for Beijing’s peace of mind, it was doubtful that Seoul would have a say in the decision as THAAD was operated by United States Forces Korea under the US Pacific Command.
“Beijing should perhaps talk to Washington on such a wall… But I seriously doubt if Beijing has really raised such a [strange] request,” he said.