South Korea Delays THAAD Deployment – What Next?

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Written by Michael Brady; Originally appeared at Strategic-culture.org

On June 5, South Korean President Moon Jai-in ordered an environmental impact assessment in the area where four additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) launchers were to be deployed. THAAD is a mobile system capable of hitting ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere in their final, or terminal, phase.

The unexpected move has caused alarm for policy makers in Washington, DC, who are worried about Beijing’s influence on the newly elected president.

South Korea Delays THAAD Deployment – What Next?

(Courtesy Photo)

THAAD is a defensive system designed to track and shoot down missiles designated for targets inside South Korea and throughout the region. Its primary purpose is to defend US military personnel (approximately 28,000) and South Korean critical infrastructure from North Korean missile launches. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula continue to ebb and flow as Washington has requested assistance from Beijing to reign in the reclusive Kim regime.

Russia and China continue to oppose the deployment. China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, recently stated, “We have said many times before that the United States deployment of THAAD not only is not beneficial for the resolution of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, it is also not good for regional stability.”

The unexpected delay in fully deploying the THAAD system could result in several scenarios going forward.

First, the delay could give the United States a window of opportunity to completely reassess its strategic posturing on the peninsula. Options to execute a phased withdrawal from the region could unfold, something many experts believe would be a mistake.

Secondly, the delay could embolden the North Korean regime to continue its furious pace of missile testing. North Korea has already fired 16 missiles in 10 tests in 2017. As Beijing and Washington continue to squabble over how to exert pressure on the DPRK, it is no wonder this lack of a coherent strategy will allow continued testing to occur unabated.

Third, its unclear if Moon is signaling that that he is open to a fresh approach toward Chinese and South Korean relations. China’s influence in the region is clearly growing as Washington continues to espouse an incoherent strategy in the region while maintaining an “American first” approach toward its decision-making process. It’s no wonder South Korea is weighing its options carefully with Beijing. Closer ties between the two states would benefit both nations in the long run, particularly on economic and regional security issues.

The United States should consider South Korea’s decision to delay THAAD as an opportunity to withdraw from the peninsula. The cold war is long over, and Washington’s ability to contain the DPRK has failed. Allowing China to take a greater leadership role may not be such a bad thing.

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  • eric zweistein

    “Secondly, the delay could embolden the North Korean regime to continue its furious pace of missile testing.”

    What a joke. North Korea is not threat to anyone except Zion’s propaganda machine.

    • Spanker Dane

      Tell that to Otto Warmbier.

      • eric zweistein

        How many guys named Warm Beer do you know – outside the CIA circus, I mean?

      • Ma_Laoshi

        Someone breaks the law of the land, goes to jail, becomes terminally ill and gets released on humanitarian grounds? Sounds like a better deal than the people in Gitmo are getting, or have I missed something?

  • hhabana

    Leave NK alone. If the people there like this form of government then why stir a hornets nest? I think this guy Moon is wise to try to descalate the situation. Even China can’t control the Fat Boy, so leave him alone.

  • Ma_Laoshi

    What a bunch of NATO babble. First of all the headline: as the article also makes clear, the issue is THAAD *expansion*. THAAD deployment has already happened, regardless of the wishes of the Korean people. And why don’t they wish it? A DPRK attack on the South would by definition be a short-range thing, which THAAD is not designed for (notice the “high altitude” part?). The usual assumption that the US lies, *especially* about its missile deployments, serves us well also here. These are systems to protect American assets from mostly Chinese missiles, while drawing a big bull’s eye on a third party, in this case the South Korean poodles–exactly the way Uncle Sam likes it. Except the Koreans are displaying some un-poodle-like behavior, and much more awareness than Romanian and Polish morons of the game that is being played.

    “Beijing’s influence on the elected president”, well I’m shocked. If Korea’s president were deaf to the concerns of his main trading partner, would that serve his country? Even more hilarious is the ominous tone of China’s growing influence in the region–it is their regions for chrissakes, not America’s.

  • Alex Black

    It makes sense, the Chinese and Russians told them they will be the first to get nuked in the event of a war.

    • Spanker Dane

      Your analysis is sophmoric at best. Let me help you; consider the following crucial factors:

      1. The South Korean market has become a very positive asset for China.
      2. North Korea has become a liablity for China, on a number of levels.
      3. The Chinese are good at math.

      Having now been educated, feel free to assess the situation anew.

      • Alex Black

        You underestimate the value of a rogue actor as a threat to # 2 and #3 economies in asia. If such a calculus could be engineered, perhaps we would be having this discussion

        • Spanker Dane

          You underestimate the concerns that China has regarding the increasing nervousness of #2 and #3 (esp. #2).

          • Alex Black

            you have a theory, i am relying on what china is doing about it.

          • Spanker Dane

            I agree with you that China has, in the past, seen NK as a very useful card to play. My point is that ‘the card’ is now more of a potential liability -for a number of reasons- for China, than it is an asset. To some extent, we’ve seen China begin to act accordingly, and I see this development accelerating in the near term.

          • Alex Black

            My point is that this is obviously your assessment, and the Chinese obviously disagree.

          • Spanker Dane

            If the Chinese disagree, then why have they tightened the sanction screws, on an already heavily sanctioned NK, in just the past 8 weeks?

          • Alex Black

            For show, nothing meaningful is happening. Also consider the actual tools available to the chinese, i can promise you they wont invade, i guess their best play is an assassination and then stick a living relative into power. Economically squeezing north korea wont work, never has, no matter how many koreans starve to death. Also, you seem familiar with the history, when in the history of north korea, has it responded to a threat with anything but aggression?

          • Spanker Dane

            Actually, the coal sanctions are very meaningful, but aside from that, we’re actually on the same wavelength in the sense that we both agree that China sees a problem that it wants to solve. I think we’ll see additional measures in this direction soon (but definitely no invasion, as you rightly say).

          • Alex Black

            I think the Chinese solution to the problem may simply create a different problem for us in the future.