In the wake of North Korea’s most recent ballistic missile test, which may indicate Kim’s regime is now capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to targets as far away as New York or Boston, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has authorized the deployment of four additional THAAD Missile Defense Systems in his country.
President Moon, a liberal that has actively pursued an open dialogue and improved relations with the North, had previously ordered the halt of further THAAD deployments pending an environment impact study. It was widely speculated at the time, however, that the decision to suspend THAAD deployments was primarily due to intense financial pressures placed on the nation by nearby economic powerhouse, China.
The Chinese government has been extremely critical of America’s THAAD systems in South Korea. While their recent complaints have revolved around heightening tensions with Kim’s regime, their ulterior concerns have always been about the THAAD’s powerful radar array – which is not only capable of locating missiles launched in the region, but of tracking Chinese equipment within their borders.
South Korea’s government has reportedly notified China of their decision, though the Chinese government has yet to issue an official statement in response.
On Saturday, China condemned North Korea’s missile test, while once again calling for restraint from all parties. China has attempted to maintain a position the lays the blame for increasing tensions on the presence of the U.S. military, despite Kim Jong-un’s repeatedly provocative behavior and formal threats of preemptive nuclear strikes. China has also claimed the onus is not on them to pressure Kim into relinquishing his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, despite serving as 90% of North Korea’s import and export market. In fact, trade between China and North Korea has actually increased since tensions began to rise on the Korean peninsula.
U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, singled out China and Russia out as “economic enablers” of Kim’s North Korean regime on Saturday. Both nations have been publicly critical of the United States’ military presence in the waters off the coast of the Korean peninsula, as well as in South Korea and Japan. Russia has also expanded financial cooperation with North Korea since the United Nations called on military sanctions to strangle Kim’s ballistic missile programs. Both China and Russia have claimed that the business arrangements made with North Korea in the time since have not been in violation of the sanctions, which are aimed only at North Korea’s military, and particularly ballistic missile, development programs.
Of course, even those claims have lost some credence, as North Korea has been seen using Chinese made timber trucks to transport and set up the Hwasong-14 ICBM for launch. Thanks to the trucks, which were sold to the North Korean government by China legally, they contend, Kim’s ICBMs will be far more difficult to track and potentially intercept upon offensive launch, as they may now be launched from nearly any corner of the reclusive state.
As the principal economic enablers of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development program, China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility for this growing threat to regional and global stability.” Tillerson said via formal statement released by the State Department.
“The United States seeks the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the end to belligerent actions by North Korea. As we and others have made clear, we will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea nor abandon our commitment to our allies and partners in the region.” He concluded.
Image courtesy of the Department of Defense