China will not be a concern in talks on Thaad

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China will not be a concern in talks on Thaad

WASHINGTON - China’s willingness to support tougher sanctions on North Korea will have no effect on the consultation between Seoul and Washington to deploy the controversial American anti-missile system in South Korea, a top security official of the Park Geun-hye administration said Thursday.

The senior official, who was visiting the United States, met with Korean media correspondents and addressed the latest security crisis on the Korean Peninsula. He said the official consultation between South Korea and the United States regarding deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system has begun, and the matter will be treated solely from the perspective of national security.

“Decisions will be made based on the needs of our security,” he said. “No strings are attached.”

His remark is a rejection of earlier speculations that Seoul may reconsider Thaad deployment in return for Beijing’s participation in tougher sanctions against the North as punishment for its nuclear test in January and long-range missile launch earlier this month.

China has been reluctant in supporting a strong resolution in the United Nations Security Council to punish its Communist ally. It has also opposed placement of the U.S. anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea as deterrence against the North’s growing nuclear and missile threats.

The Thaad battery comes with a powerful radar system that can cover more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles), and Beijing has said the radar can be used as a possible method of surveillance against China.

“The United States did not attach any other condition to Thaad deployment,” the security official said. “China opposes Thaad deployment, but I have not heard it link the United Nations Security Council resolution to the Thaad issue.”

“The national security matter [of Thaad deployment] cannot be subjected to be traded with another issue,” he said, adding that Washington and Beijing are also having consultations on the U.S. plan to deploy Thaad in South Korea.

The South Korean official also made clear that Seoul and Washington have decided to shift their North Korea policy by putting more weight on pressure over dialogue.

“Until now, our policies were led by the two axes of pressure and dialogue,” he said. “We will maintain the tone, but we will concentrate more on pressuring the North.”

He also flatly rejected a proposal by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to move forward with the denuclearization of North Korea in tandem with transitioning from an armistice to a peace treaty on the Korean Peninsula.

“Now is the time to concentrate efforts on pressuring North Korea to change its attitude through UN Security Council resolutions,” he said. “Now is not the time to talk.”

Seoul and Washington are taking diplomatic and military measures to respond to escalated tensions on the peninsula. A series of demonstrations of force, which will include the largest-ever joint military exercises in March, have already begun.

The two allies also held high-level strategic talks. South Korea’s deputy national security adviser, Cho Tae-yong, visited Washington this week and met Thursday with Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

They discussed bilateral and multilateral cooperation to handle the North Korean crisis, including a UN Security Council resolution to be issued in the coming weeks.

On Wednesday, Blinken said the United States wants “a resolution with real teeth” to punish the North. In an interview with PBS, he urged China to act more aggressively.

“You have leverage,” Blinken said. “You need to use it. If you don’t - it’s your decision - but if you don’t, we are going to have to take steps.”

In the absence of China’s cooperation, the United States will have to beef up its defense in South Korea, including Thaad deployment, he said.

“We have now entered into active consultations with our South Korean partners and allies on the deployment of a Thaad missile defense system, which is not directed at China. This actually won’t affect China strategically,” he said. “They don’t see it that way. They view it as a problem. We said, look, if you are not going to take responsibility for helping to deal with North Korea and getting them to change their behavior and engage in meaningful, denuclearization talks, we have to take these kinds of steps.”

South Korea also challenged the legitimacy of North Korea’s membership in the United Nations. South Korean Ambassador to the United Nations Oh Joon said Monday that it is questionable if the North has the right to stay as a UN member because it continuously violated Security Council resolutions over the past decade. Oh made the argument at a UN Security Council discussion.

Ambassador Hahn Choong-hee, deputy permanent representative to the UN, also made the same argument on Tuesday at another UN conference.

It is the first time South Korea has challenged the validity of the North’s UN membership since the two Koreas joined the international organization together in 1991. Although the Charter of the United Nations says a member who continually violates the principles in the charter can be expelled under the recommendation of the Security Council, no precedent exists as of now.

BY KIM HYUN-KI, SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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