On Deployment of the American ABM System Elements in South Korea

ABM34324324According to the South-Korean mass media reports, despite previous denials by the RK government of this fact, the US military acknowledged that they had already selected and inspected the locations, which were most suitable for the deployment of the American ABM complexes THAAD on the Territory of the Republic of Korea. Three sites were selected from among the American bases in the RK: near Pyeongtaek in Gyeonggi Province (the most suitable), not far from the city of Wonju in Gangwon province and near the town of Wonkwang in North Gyeongsang province.

THAAD is the acronym for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, the name of a mobile land-based ABM complex for high altitude exoatmospheric intercept of medium-range missiles. Though their deployment in Korea is explained by the necessity ‘to respond to the missile threat from Pyongyang’, in fact, the main goal is neutralization of nuclear arsenals and information gathering about military facilities in China and Russia.

It is not clear how soon the missiles will appear in the RK. The American magazine ‘Defense Update’, with reference to the information from a military source in the RK, reports that the systems are already at a base in Texas, from where they can be delivered to the RK within several hours. But the final decision has not been taken yet, since in the RK the government and the society have no unanimity on this issue.

Many a time the RK Ministry of Defense spoke in favor of the deployment. ‘To a certain extent the neighbor countries may take their own stand in relation to the THAAD systems’ deployment in Korea by the US contingent of troops. But it is impermissible that they try to influence our policy in the sphere of defense and security’, the official of the South Korean Defence Ministry, Kim Min Sok, said, and the Yonhap News Agency on the condition of anonymity quoted the words of a high-ranking state official, who stressed that the statement of the military should be understood as a manifestation of the Government’s general approach.

On the other hand, the Yonhap News Agency quotes the text of the joint statement of about 120 non-governmental organizations: ‘The Government must refuse to deploy THAAD that will undermine peace in Northeast Asia, including on the Korean peninsula and will damage the relations between South Korea and China.’ The opposition representatives also assume that President Park Geun-hye must ‘reject any pressure from the USA’ and declare her position against the deployment of the ABM complex: ‘The THAAD deployment will result in military and economic animosity on the peninsula, which will damage national interests and goals, for example, the inter-Korean peace and reunification’.

In its editorial column the leading regional newspaper ‘Busan Ilbo’ scorched the decision on inclusion into the above mentioned list of the densely populated Busan region. ‘The issue on the THAAD systems’ deployment, being a very sensitive diplomatic problem, should be resolved on the ground of national interests. That is alright, but the Busan citizens cannot forgive and accept such an approach, when the issue on the city’s inclusion into the list, not to mention the actual deployment, is settled unilaterally, without taking into account the opinion of the local community’, the article stresses.

The RF, the DPRK and the PRC also criticize the possibility of such deployment. ‘The deployment of the US ABM system (on the RK territory) will only aggravate tension on the Korean Peninsula. Besides, these plans have the goal to launch a preventive strike at the DPRK, as well as the creation of conditions for putting pressure on Russia and China’, the statement quoted by the Korean Central News Agency says.

Moscow and Beijing have also repeatedly expressed their deep concern in relation to Washington plans. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation stated that ‘it is very disturbing, taking into account the destructive character of the US global ABM system’s influence on the international security and strategic stability. In the region, which is characterized by a rather difficult situation in the sphere of security, another ‘irritant’ may appear, capable to provoke the arms race in the North-East Asia and to further complicate the resolving of the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula’.

Besides, there are economic problems, too: it is not clear, who will incur the bulk of the expenses. The USA have already invested about 15 billion dollars in the THAAD creation and due to the budget cutting they want Seoul to dip into its pocket and at least partially cover the cost (two and more billion dollars) of the battery that may appear in Korea. Seoul is unalterably opposed to it.

As a result, the American military stressed that the inspections were ‘unofficial’ and without preliminary consultations with Seoul. ‘THAAD systems may be deployed in Korea only after reaching relevant agreements and consent on the part of the RK government’, stated the US Forces in their press-release in Korea. And though at the end of March 2015 negotiations were held in Seoul between Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US and the RK Armed Forces Martin Dempsey and Choi Yoon-hee, the issue of THAAD was not touched upon. Official representatives of the Republic of Korea also state that ‘nothing has been decided yet’, but most probably, in the end the positive decision will nevertheless be taken.

Konstantin Asmolov, Candidate of Historical Sciences, Senior Researcher at the Center of Korean Research of the Institute of Far-Eastern Studies with the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for “New Eastern Outlook” online magazine.

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