US Army chief visits East Asia amid tension

China Daily
Zhang Tao

Talks in China, Republic of Korea and Japan will address deployment of controversial anti-missile system in ROK

China hopes Washington "places a high priority and properly tackles" its plan to deploy an advanced anti-missile system in the Republic of Korea, a senior Chinese military official said on Tuesday.

Li Zuocheng, commander of the PLA Army, made the statement when meeting with US Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley in Beijing.

Milley, starting his first official visit to Beijing amid lingering tension triggered by the plan to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, was quoted by the Ministry of National Defense as saying that he expects the two militaries to reinforce exchanges and boost trust.

He is scheduled to visit China, the ROK and Japan from Monday to Aug 23, and in the ROK he will receive an update on plans to deploy the THAAD system there, according to a release by the US Pacific Command.

In recent months, Beijing and Moscow have responded strongly against THAAD, as the X-band radar associated with the system is known to locate missiles as far away as 2,000 kilometers, which would only cover territories of both China and Russia.

Massive protests have also broken out in various parts of the ROK, urging ROK President Park Geun-hye to abort the deployment plan.

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said that a number of senior US military officials visited the ROK recently to advance the deployment, and that Washington's anxiety is behind such moves.

"Quite a long time ago, the Pentagon had planned to introduce THAAD into the ROK but there was mere chance. Now it hopes to put it in place at an earlier date to avoid missing the rare chance," Ruan said.

Zhao Xiaozhuo, a researcher at the Center on China-US Defense Relations at the People's Liberation Army Academy of Military Science, said the THAAD system "actually diminishes the strategic deterrence of China and Russia", and the action of targeting China and Russia "affects global strategic stability".

"What the US is doing will prompt Beijing and Moscow to expand cooperation in the antimissile field," Zhao said, and increased engagement in Asia Pacific affairs via fueling tensions "will bring more problems."

During the fourth China-Russia Northeast Asia Security Consultation on July 28, Beijing and Moscow agreed that they will "proactively consider strengthening bilateral coordinating measures" to tackle potential negative factors posed by the THAAD plan.

Currently, there is basically balance in the competition and cooperation between Beijing and Washington, but if the US persists in reinforcing its investment in containing China, "the confrontational color of China-US ties will be stronger," Zhao said.

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