South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday there was no secret agreement with Beijing over a US missile shield deployment, denying claims Seoul made security concessions to restore economic ties with China.
The ministry’s spokesperson Noh Kyu-duk said Seoul did not make any backroom deals with Beijing ahead of Tuesday’s South Korea-China joint statement. In the statement, the two sides vowed to repair their knotty relationship following Seoul’s decision to deploy the US’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery.
Although the agreement did not include explicit language about whether Korea would install more THAAD batteries or join the US-led missile defense system, speculation has emerged that Seoul might have told China that it would not pursue such options in the future.
“I’m sincerely hoping that you should understand the agreement as it is,” said Noh during a regular press briefing. “Seoul has consistently made clear (to China that) any issues that can restrict our security sovereignty would never be subject to the negotiation.”
When asked about whether the government could change its stance over additional deployment of THAAD batteries and participation in the US missile shield network, the spokesman declined to comment “on the issues that involve possibilities in the future.”
South Korea`s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa. Yonhap
According to the agreement, South Korea “reiterated” their official positions to China over those issues. On Monday, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa told lawmakers that the government is not considering additional deployment of THAAD batteries and participation in the US missile defense network.
South Korean Ambassador to China Noh Young-min acknowledged that China had requested Seoul’s explicit reassurance over the issues, but the government refused to do so. Instead, it gave guarantee that THAAD is not aiming at the Chinese territory, Noh added.
“There was no separate agreement other than the official announcement,” Noh sad in an interview with local broadcaster CBS. “My view is that China accepted our explanation about THAAD’s geographical limitation and technological guarantee that it does not target third countries like China and Russia.”
Beijing has accused the THAAD deployment of being a prelude to Seoul’s participation in a US missile defense initiative. They suspect THAAD’s AN/TPY-2 X-band radar can spy into their territory, improve the US’ ability to discriminate warheads from decoys and degrade their nuclear second-strike capability.
When asked about whether the deal had been supported by the US -- which struggled to keep South Korea and China unified in dealing with North Korea -- the ambassador said Washington delivered assistance during the negotiation and expressed welcoming the deal.
“Through close coordination with the US, we consulted with them (on the agreement) and the US welcomed the deal,” Noh said. “The US is well aware of the fact that China’s role is important in Northeast Asia to resolve North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat.”
Regarding a possible visit by President Moon Jae-in to China, the ambassador said he was seeking to make it happen as early as next month. Moon and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to be held in Vietnam on Nov 10-11.
In order to amend the fraught relations following the THAAD controversy, Foreign Minister Kang is also seeking to visit China within this month after accompanying President Moon to Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines from Wednesday to Nov. 15, diplomatic sources said Thursday.
The sources said Seoul’s Foreign Ministry is seeking to hold a bilateral meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to discuss ways to enhance bilateral ties and rein in North Korea’s military threats. Since taking office in June, Kang has not visited China.
By Yeo Jun-suk (email@example.com