The origin of the Thaad crisis
YOU SANG-CHULThe author is the head of the China Institute of the JoongAng Ilbo. The Korea-China Thaad conflict has resurfaced after Foreign Minister Park Jin visited China last week. In response to China’s claim on “Three nos” plus “one restriction,” Koreans object. They wonder what the one restriction is anyway. Having experienced the Thaad crisis, our understanding of the issue is still insufficient.
The three nos refers to no additional Thaad deployments, no joining of a broader U.S. missile defense system and no Korea-U.S.-Japan military alliance, while the one restriction refers to the previous Moon Jae-in administration’s promised to limit the operation of the Thaad batteries already deployed in Korea. They were mentioned when “the results of bilateral consultations on improving Korea-China relations” were announced on Oct. 31, 2017.
More precisely, the “one restriction” China is talking about is that Korea will take appropriate measures so that the Thaad deployed in Korea does not harm China’s security interests, and communicate through channels between the military authorities of the two countries.
The results of the Oct. 31 consultation are divided into five paragraphs, with the three nos in the fourth paragraph and a restriction in the third paragraph. If you look at the third paragraph, China takes a position that tolerates the deployment of Thaad in Korea. As Korea says that the Thaad is not aimed at China, China is asking Korea to take “appropriate measures” so that it can believe Korea’s claim.
At that time, there were rumors that China had requested Korea inform China about the Thaad operation status or install a barrier to prevent the Thaad radar from being directed toward China.
Since then, Korea only addressed the three nos and ignored the one restriction. Why? The one restriction China demanded is out of Korea’s scope of implementation. What can Korea do about the Thaad that is operated by the United States? This is where the problem arises. The Korean government made China have false expectations by talking about something Korea cannot fulfill. The problem is self-evident. Why did this happen?
The answer can be found if you look at by whom the consultation was made. Korea was represented by Nam Gwan-pyo, the second deputy director of the National Security Office, and China was represented by Kong Xuanyou, assistant foreign minister of China. The Korean Foreign Ministry did not take a part in drafting the document. As a result, the document was written entirely in favor of China, leaving room for being attacked by China in the future.
The harm of the Thaad dispute runs wide and deep. It affects three administrations, Park Geun-hye, Moon Jae-in and Yoon Suk-yeol. To prevent such an unfortunate incident from happening again, we must reflect on what went wrong from the start.
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