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THAAD is China's only concern about Park-Obama summit: Chinese professor

The only concern China has about the upcoming summit between South Korean President Park Geun-hye and U.S. President Barack Obama is the possibility of the two leaders discussing the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system to the South, a Chinese expert said Tuesday.

Beijing has voiced vehement opposition to the U.S. desire to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery to South Korea, claiming it could be used against the country, despite repeated assurances from Washington that the system is aimed only at deterring North Korean threats.

"China's government explicitly opposed the implementations of THAAD systems on the Korean peninsula no matter in the US military base, or on the ROK's military base," Cheng Xiaohe, a professor of Renmin University of China, said during a seminar at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

China perceives a THAAD deployment not only as a threat to its military activities on its territory, but also as efforts to further strengthen the trilateral military-to-military ties among the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, which Beijing has long opposed.

"So, the deployment of the THAAD systems will yet inevitably strengthen the military relationship among the three nations. I think that's probably the only serious concern that China worries about during Park Geun-hye's visit to Washington next week," Cheng said.

The U.S. wants to deploy a THAAD unit to South Korea, where some 28,500 American troops are stationed, to better defend against ever-growing threats from North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

But the issue has become one of the most sensitive for South Korea because China sees a potential THAAD deployment as a threat to their security interests and has increased pressure on Seoul to reject such a deployment.

Seoul and Washington have maintained they have never held any formal consultations on the issue.

Park is scheduled to hold summit talks with Obama on Friday next week, when the two leaders are expected to discuss how to deal with a saber-rattling North Korea, further solidify the alliance and expand cooperation on global issues.

Officials in Seoul said, however, that the issue of THAAD is not on the agenda. (Yonhap)
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