Subtlety is requiredSeoul and Washington agreed to form a joint working group to review the issue of bringing a U.S. antimissile system called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) to South Korea.
During the first talk, the group will have discussed the possible locations for the missile defense system, safety issues and cost. Once a set of terms are agreed to - and if they are agreed to - they will be scrutinized by defense ministers of the two countries before any formal contract is signed.
The biggest challenge is bringing Beijing around on the subject. It vehemently opposes the deployment of a system that comes with powerful radar capable of covering 1,000 kilometers (621 miles), which means it can spy on it.
China’s point man on Korean issues and special envoy to the six-party talks Wu Dawei arrived in Seoul, spending five days here to meet with not only senior government officials but also businessmen to campaign against Thaad deployment.
Companies with business interests in China would have naturally been pressured in Wu’s diplomatic campaign.
Seoul formerly began to consider Thaad placement from mid-January after President Park Geun-hye said it could be necessary for national security.
Beijing then was lukewarm in joining an international response to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test. But since Thaad became a topic of open discussion, Beijing turned active in punishing North Korea for its recent nuclear and missile tests, sponsoring the unprecedentedly harsh United Nations resolution and sanctions on North Korea.
The sanctions cannot be effective in taming Pyongyang’s weapons program without the engagement and full cooperation of China. But Beijing is strongly opposed to the installation of a missile system that it also falls under.
Since Beijing’s hard-line turn toward Pyongyang, Washington has softened its stance on the need for speedy deployment of Thaad. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently indicated there was no rush in the deployment, saying the military system would actually be unnecessary if progress is made on denuclearization.
We have more at stake. We must consider various geopolitical factors to decide what is best for national security and our interests. We must map out a farsighted and subtle strategy to enhance national security by closely studying the protean relationship between the United States and China.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 5, Page 26