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Korea’s opposition to THAAD: Is it because of China-phobia?

Korea’s opposition to THAAD: Is it because of China-phobia?

Posted March. 14, 2015 07:16,   


Earlier this year, a local government in China confirmed that the nation is building its second air craft carrier. The Changzhou city authority said on its twitter account on Jan. 31 that “a local company in Changzhou had won a contract to supply electrical cabling for the second carrier.” In early this month, the People’s Daily, China`s Communist Party mouthpiece, reported that the second aircraft carrier is being built in the city of Dalian.

If China is armed with the second carrier after its first Liaoning, which was commissioned three years ago, the West Sea will be firmly within China’s reach as if the sea is China’s inland sea. Although the Liaoning is not equipped with comprehensive combat systems like American carriers, the second carrier is being built to be equipped with state-of-the-art combat capability. It may pose a serious threat to neighboring countries, said military experts.

However, Korea doesn’t have much interest in China’s aircraft carrier building. There is no voice of concern or objection. China strongly opposed when the U.S. tried to bring its super carrier George Washington into the West Sea during the joint military drill five years ago after the Korean naval corvette Cheonan incident. Some groups in Korea also opposed, and the U.S. aircraft carrier’s operation in the West Sea was canceled.

Korea is indifferent to China’s military buildup, but opponents of THAAD in Korea are citing China’s opposition against the defense system. It is ironic. China’s aircraft carriers are assault weapons that can aim at us. On the contrary, the U.S.-developed terminal high-altitude area defense (THAAD) system is an anti-missile system, a shield for defense. How can Korea defend itself when it turns a blind eye to China’s carriers that can be a realistic threat and opposes to THAAD of which deployment has not be discussed yet by Korea and the U.S.?

“China is pursuing a strong marine expansion policy after inauguration of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Korea must pay keen attention to China’s beefing up its war-fighting forces in the West Sea,” said Korea Institute for Maritime Strategy advisory Song Keun-ho, who served as former commander of operations in Korean Navy. China designated the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone (CADIZ) that includes a submerged rock Ieodo within a Korea`s territorial line in 2013, aiming to expand its marine territory. As China announced previously, if China designates the CADIZ in the West Sea, China’s aircraft carriers will pose a great threat to Korea amid growing territorial tensions between the two nations.

THAAD opposition from politics, academia, and civic organizations are severely biased toward China. Former Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyeon said in an interview with media on Wednesday, “THAAD can contain, monitor and sometimes attack China. That’s why China strongly opposes the defense system.” Jeong’s reasoning sounds like the Chinese government’s spokesperson. Rep. Yoo Seung-hee, a supreme council member of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, said, “If THAAD is deployed, the Korean Peninsula can become the first target of China or Russia.” All of these remarks go beyond just reading China’s mood, and take one step further to please China. Do they want to go back to toadyism in the Joseon Dynasty toward China? Or, like Chinese soccer players’ Korea phobia, do we get a "China phobia" about China’s opposition in the national security and diplomacy?

For the past several years, opponents against building a navy base in Jeju Island had argued that provocation of China may put Korea’s security into danger. It is not hard to imagine how they would react when Korea and the U.S. agree to deploy THAAD.

China’s stance is basically to check the Korea-U.S. alliance. If the U.S. is a variable factor in the Korea-China relations, some Koreans view China more preferentially, not in an objective and fair manner. The former Roh Moo-hyun administration elevated the Korea-China relations to "partners for full collaboration." In 2008, the former Lee Myung-bak administration promoted the relation to "strategic collaboration partners." Still, pro-Roh groups must be proud of it. Distorted view, which takes side of China out of hatred towards the U.S. and the current administration, does not do any good to the partnership between Korea and China.