Move may sabotage China's efforts to diffuse peninsular tensions: analysts
The U.S. military on Wednesday started moving parts of its controversial anti-missile defense system to a deployment site in South Korea, a move that some analysts say may sabotage China's efforts to diffuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea said in a statement Wednesday that unspecified parts of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) were installed, the Associated Press reported.
Television footage Wednesday showed military trailers carrying large units, including what appeared to be launch canisters being driven into the planned THAAD battery site, about 250 kilometers south of Seoul. Images showed police trying to block protesters hurling water bottles at the vehicles.
The move is not conducive to jointly resolving the North Korea nuclear crisis, given that China is currently pressuring North Korea diplomatically and using sanctions to abandon its missile and nuclear programs, said Zhu Feng, an international relations professor at Nanjing University.
Zhan Debin, an associate professor at Shanghai University of International Business and Economics, said Pyongyang could interpret the move as war preparations by the U.S..
China on Wednesday urged the U.S. and South Korea to withdraw the equipment and stop the deployment.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a daily press briefing that the THAAD deployment will disrupt the region's strategic balance, worsen tensions on the Korean Peninsula, do no good to denuclearization efforts, and threaten regional peace and stability.
The earlier-than-expected deployment also came less than two weeks before South Korea's presidential election, scheduled on May 9.
A spokesman for frontrunner Moon Jae-in said the decision "ignores public opinion and due process," and demanded the deployment's suspension after the new administration takes office and comes up with its own policy.
"There isn't much time left for the conservatives in South Korea. Given Moon's attitude on THAAD, the military felt compelled to hasten the deployment before the election of a new administration," said Zhan.
"However, the move will make it more difficult for the next South Korean government to restore relations between Beijing and Seoul."
He noted that China will implement countermeasures, but will likely hold back until after it discusses THAAD with the new South Korean administration.
Moon also said that the new South Korean administration should determine whether to deploy the THAAD after gathering public opinion and having further discussions with Washington, Reuters reported.