China envoy warns S Korea of 'destruction' of ties due to US missile defence system

China envoy warns S Korea of 'destruction' of ties due to US missile defence system
A South Korean anti-war activist holds a placard reading "THAAD go back to USA," during a rally against talks on deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence System (THAAD) on February 23, 2016.
PHOTO: AFP

Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Chu Guo Hong on Tuesday warned of a possible "destruction" of bilateral relations, reiterating the country's opposition to the projected introduction of advanced US missile assets on the peninsula.

At a meeting with Kim Chong-in, interim chairman of the main opposition The Minjoo Party, the envoy stressed that a stationing of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system will dent Beijing's security interests and in turn take a toll on the relationship.

"Much efforts have been made to develop the bilateral ties to today's level.

But such efforts may be destroyed in an instant only with one problem, and it would not be easy and could take a long time (to recover)," Chu was quoted as saying by party spokesman Rep. Kim Sung-soo who was also present during the visit.

"The THAAD's deployment will break the strategic balance in the region and create a vicious level of Cold War-style confrontations and an arms race, which could escalate tension and uneasiness. South Korea should reconsider if its safety is guaranteed in such a situation."

On the upcoming UN Security Council penalties for North Korea's latest nuclear and missile tests, Chu displayed support for a "fresh, strong" resolution but urged dialogue with Pyongyang and again took issue with the THAAD issue as a stumbling block for the sanctions move.

"Should the THAAD issue not have broken out, a new UN resolution would have been adopted already," he added.

Since Seoul's unveiling on Feb. 7 of formal talks with Washington on the THAAD stationing, Beijing has lodged its protest because it deems the equipment as part of a US-led global missile defence programme targeting it.

Chu's remarks, however, were met with criticism especially for shifting blame to the THAAD plan, for unprecedentedly dragging UNSC discussions and threatening a ruin of ties, which some called a diplomatic faux pas.

"As an ambassador representing his homeland, speaking of a 'destruction' of bilateral relations is extremely undiplomatic, and a grave problem, even after we've explained many times that the system is intended to counter North Korea's threats," an official at Seoul's Foreign Ministry said, asking to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter.

A Defence Ministry official said, "If China truly wanted to keep THAAD at bay, it should have pressed the North harder to stop developing nuclear weapons and missiles.

Without them, the battery would not have been considered an option in the first place."

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