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Uncle Sam can help

Mar 08,2017
We appreciate the faster-than-expected deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system in South Korea given the ever-increasing threats from North Korea. The North on Sunday fired four intermediate-range missiles into the East Sea after blatantly defying UN Security Council resolutions. It’s only a matter of time until Pyongyang can load miniaturized nuclear warheads onto its missiles.

In such a situation, fast deployment of defensive weapons is a rational decision. Some opponents express concerns about the deployment citing China’s vehement opposition. But the bottom line is our national security. It would be too late if our country is reduced to ashes after an unexpected attack.

If the Thaad deployment is a fait accompli, it is better to wrap it up as quickly as possible. Otherwise, we can hardly avoid unproductive debates over the deployment in the run-up to the upcoming presidential election.

Of course, China will toughen its retaliations as seen in its foreign ministry’s recent threat to “take whatever necessary steps to protest the deployment.” Beijing also warned that Seoul and Washington must take responsibility for what will happen next. The Chinese media also blames Korea for not “notifying Beijing of its earlier-than-expected deployment.” That’s sheer nonsense. What country would tip off a neighbor about its security decisions?

China has embarked on a full-fledged retaliation, ordering its big retail outlets to remove products from Lotte Confectionery, an affiliate of Lotte Group, which offered a golf course as the site for the Thaad battery. But China must not forget that its retaliation will cause massive damage on the Chinese side too. Korean tourists to China have decreased dramatically.

Leader Xi Jinping must understand that Beijing must take responsibility for a growing call in South Korea for a redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons, which were pulled out during the George H. W. Bush administration in the early 1990s. If China helped rein in its ally’s nuclear ambitions, there would be no need for such a reintroduction.

Whatever the case, a tsunami of retaliations will hit South Korea. Our government must take advantage of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visits to Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo in April. His trip to China is primarily aimed at fixing an agenda for a summit between Trump and Xi. Seoul must urge Washington to help stop Beijing’s retaliations — something only Uncle Sam can do.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 8, Page 30