After 5th nuclear test, Thaad protests weakenOpposition parties are toning down their opposition to the Park Geun-hye administration’s plan to allow the deployment of a controversial U.S. antimissile system.
Following the North’s continuing nuclear and missile provocations, South Korea and the United States agreed that a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) battery will be deployed in the South.
China and Russia have protested the decision, expressing concern that its powerful radar could be used to spy on their territories.
“Our only bargaining chip with China is Thaad,” said Ahn Cheol-soo, former chairman of the People’s Party, during an interview on Monday. “If China agrees to sanction the North, we should recant the deployment plan. That should be our negotiation strategy.”
Ahn’s remark was a departure from the People’s Party’s adamant opposition to the Thaad deployment plan, as it can be interpreted that the party will not disagree with the deployment if China does not aggressively punish the North.
Rep. Joo Seong-yong, a senior party official, also told reporters on Monday that the party will follow the decision of the National Assembly.
The People’s Party formally expressed its opposition to the Thaad deployment as its party line in July. It has also urged other opposition lawmakers to join its protest. The latest remarks by the top party official, therefore, suggest a change.
Sources in the party said concern grew about reactions to its protests after the North’s fifth nuclear test. “Public opposition to Thaad weakened,” a party official said. “And there was a possibility of a sixth nuclear test. The sense of risk grew inside the party that we may gain nothing by insisting on our protest.”
Lawmakers also said the voters they met during the Chuseok holiday demanded that the party end its protest.
“When I went to my district and talked to voters, many said we should stop our Thaad protest,” said Rep. Lee Yong-ho, who represents Namwon, Imsil and Sunchang of North Jeolla.
The party also expected the Minjoo Party of Korea to launch an allied protest, but the main opposition party did not join.
The Minjoo Party said it will continue to maintain its “strategic ambiguity” on the issue.
“The previous leadership acted cautiously because it feared this situation,” said Rep. Woo Sang-ho, floor leader of the Minjoo Party, during the leadership meeting. “We must hold a discussion with experts and decide the party’s official stance.”
Newly elected Chairwoman Choo Mi-ae also said Sunday that she sees no deadline for the party to decide its position on the Thaad deployment.
BY YOO SUNG-WOON, AHN HYO-SUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]