September 06, 2016 12:10
A summit between the leaders of South Korea and China on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Hangzhou, China ended with both sides merely acknowledging their differences. President Park Geun-hye stressed that the U.S.' Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery is being deployed here purely for South Korea's defense and explained it will become unnecessary the moment North Korea scraps its nuclear weapons and missile development.
But Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated Beijing's opposition to the deployment. China believes the battery is intended to keep its military might in check.
But he also called for a "future-oriented" relationship between South Korea and China and urged Park to overcome this problem.
Although an immediate solution may not be on the horizon, the comments have raised hopes that dispute can be contained at a manageable level since it is just one aspect of Seoul-Beijing relations. Both countries must boost exchanges so that bilateral ties are not shaken by a single incident.
The government should listen to China's concerns while steadfastly protecting South Korea's security.
A much bigger problem is growing opposition to the deployment at home. There have been wild claims of a total breakdown in Seoul-Beijing relations if a THAAD battery is deployed here, a scenario that some seemed obscurely to welcome. The truth is that a group of short-sighted and selfish people are using every contentious issue to drive a deeper wedge between the public.
As the G20 meeting went ahead in China, North Korea lobbed three missiles into the East Sea like a spoiled three-year old to get some attention. The missiles are designed to strike U.S. troop and supply reinforcements entering South Korean ports in times of war, and Monday's tests were apparently successful.
But while Seoul spends far more than Pyongyang on defense, it has still not come up with a weapons system that can effectively protect it against the North's missiles. What have the governments of the last two decades been doing while North Korea acquired nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles?
For the moment, the deployment of a THAAD battery is unavoidable. This is clear for anyone to see, yet the government is still having problems finding a location two months after announcing its decision to bring it here.
Everyone agrees that we need to defend the country, but nobody is willing to pay the price.
It is impossible to convince the naysayers no matter how much factual evidence they are being confronted with that stationing the battery on their doorstep is perfectly safe. Some are merely concerned that their real estate value could drop. They need to think about what kind of message that sends to South Korea's allies.
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