South Korea today dismissed China’s warning that the planned deployment of a US missile defence system could damage ties, stressing that it was to counter “growing threats” from North Korea.
“The deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD) is a measure of self-defence against growing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea,” presidential spokesman Jeong Yeon-Guk said.
Jeong said the issue would be “decided in accordance with security and national interests,” adding that “China will have to recognise the point.”
The remarks came after Chinese ambassador Qiu Guohong Tuesday warned that installation of the THAAD system on the Korean Peninsula could “destroy” relations between Beijing and Seoul.
China has repeatedly protested since Washington and Seoul announced plans to deploy the missile defence in the South, in response to North Korea’s recent nuclear test and rocket launch.
But Tuesday was the first time that a Chinese diplomat or official has warned of the effect on diplomatic ties with Seoul.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said it was taking “necessary measures” about Qiu’s comments without elaborating further.
“Before raising an issue about the THAAD deployment, it will be reasonable to consider the root of the problem,” the ministry said.
The THAAD system fires anti-ballistic missiles to smash into enemy missiles either inside or outside the Earth’s atmosphere during their final flight phase.
The interceptor missiles carry no warheads, instead relying on kinetic energy to destroy their targets.
The allies announced their intention to begin talks on its deployment following Pyongyang’s long-range rocket launch on February 7, which was seen by the US and its allies as a covert ballistic missile test.
South Korea’s defence ministry said it expects official talks on THAAD to begin next week.