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Xi, Putin meet, gripe about Thaad

July 05,2017
Days before President Moon Jae-in flies to a Group of 20 meeting in Germany, President Xi Jinping of China and President Vladimir Putin of Russia agreed Monday to oppose the deployment of a U.S.-led advanced antimissile system in South Korea.

Moon will meet Xi and Putin at the G-20 meeting in Hamburg. A summit with Xi is being planned for Thursday in Berlin, and a meeting with Putin will take place on Friday in Hamburg, on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, Chung Eui-yong, head of the National Security Office of the Blue House, said Monday.

Xi and Putin met in Moscow Monday evening to discuss bilateral ties and global issues, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said Tuesday. “The two leaders both agreed to settle the Korean Peninsula issue via dialogue and oppose the deployment of Thaad in South Korea,” the report said. Thaad, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, is an anti-ballistic missile defense system designed to shoot down missiles in their terminal phase.

Seoul and Washington agreed on the deployment of a Thaad battery in July 2016 to deter North Korea’s growing missile threats over protests by Beijing and Moscow. They complained that the system’s powerful radar is a threat to their national security. Key components of a Thaad battery, including an x-band radar system and two missile launchers, were installed in Seongju, North Gyeongsang, on April 26 - less than two weeks before the May 9 election that brought Moon to power.

Moon recently ordered an environmental impact study, effectively stalling the deployment for the time being.

“The deployment of the U.S. Thaad missile defense system in South Korea does serious damage to the strategic security interests of all countries in the region, including China and Russia, and disrupts the regional strategic balance,” Xi warned ahead of the summit with Putin in an interview with the TASS news agency.

He said the deployment contributes nothing to the process of denuclearization of North Korea and urged the “relevant parties to stop the Thaad deployment to the Republic of Korea and back away from this decision,” apparently addressing Seoul and Washington.

According to the Chinese news report, Xi’s summit with Putin was the third this year.

The G-20 summit on Friday and Saturday will be attended by leaders of major countries including U.S. President Donald Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Xi and Putin.

A series of bilateral meetings between leaders will take place on the sidelines of the summit. A Xi-Trump meeting is scheduled to take place as well as a Putin-Trump summit.

Moon is scheduled to have a trilateral meeting with Trump and Abe and a bilateral summit with Abe.

Moon just returned from his first summit with Trump in Washington. While the two leaders did not specifically mention the Thaad issue in a joint statement, Moon addressed the issue at other events in Washington. Moon spent time last Thursday meeting leaders of Congress and clarified that he has no intention of delaying or scrapping the deployment.

He also commented in a lecture held at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Friday that Korea’s decision to allow the Thaad deployment is a “matter of sovereignty,” and, “it is wrong for China to make unjust intervention.”

Last February, former U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in the New York Times: “America must also be mindful of the danger that China and Russia could form a strategic alliance.” Brzezinski died in May.

“For this reason, the United States must take care not to act toward China as though it were a subordinate: this would almost guarantee a closer tie between China and Russia,” Brzezinski wrote.

“More immediately worrying is the problem posed by North Korea, which will require increased cooperation among North Korea’s more powerful neighbors, including China and Japan [and potentially Russia], as well as the United States. Isolated American efforts are unlikely to move Pyongyang in a positive direction,” he wrote.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]