This week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be in Beijing, ahead of an expected meeting in the US next month between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) being deployed in South Korea continues to severely bother the Chinese administration despite both South Korean and U.S. officials explicitly stating that it is there purely to defend against potential North Korean aggressions.
Tillerson is to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday.
Although the USA “acknowledges” China’s opposition, Tillerson urged China to “address the threat that makes Thaad necessary”.
The newspaper notes that the Trump administration has already begun to expand its responses to Chinese-North Korean business, with the U.S. Commerce Department announcing a fine on a Chinese company to “put the world on notice” that a United Nations ban on most business with North Korea will be enforced.
The former Exxon Mobil CEO has adopted a low profile during his six weeks as secretary of state. And what tactics are in the works to protect the country from North Korea’s growing nuclear power?
The AN/TPY-2 radar and part of US troops who will operate the THAAD battery are scheduled to make it to the Osan air base, some 60 km south of the capital city Seoul, on Thursday morning.
Trump has allayed some of those concerns since taking office.
China’s President Xi Jinping claps during the opening session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 5, 2017.
The vice minister said that the government is still making it clear to Beijing that South Korea is in strong need of THAAD to guard itself against outside threats and that there is no need for it if the North gives up its nuclear program. “So we have 20 years of a failed approach”, Tillerson said. Trump said on Twitter.
Tillerson’s remarks come at a time when the USA intelligence community and the Defense Department are increasingly anticipating that North Korea will soon undertake a new round of testing of its missile and nuclear program, half a dozen United States officials have told CNN.
His point is that too much attention is paid to North Korea’s obsession with developing ICBMs capable of striking the United States. Beijing is irked by the prospect of having to contend with THAAD in South Korea, as it fears the system’s powerful radar can gaze deep into Chinese territory and compromise its own defenses.
Asked about the possibility of using military force against North Korea, he said, “all of the options are on the table”.
China, through its state-run media, is claiming that North Korea and South Korea have become “equally hysterical” and the only solution is diplomatic talks, ideally organized and led by China.
But destroying Pyongyang’s obvious military targets does little to prevent North Korea delivering a nuclear device through other means – perhaps via a civilian fishing boat – that would be detonated by a suicide operative. The favorite to succeed her is Moon Jae-in, a moderate who wants to engage North Korea’s government.
For now, US officials consider pre-emptive military action against North Korea far too risky, given the danger of igniting a regional war and causing massive casualties in Japan and South Korea and among tens of thousands of USA troops based in both allied countries. Experts say it could have a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the USA within a few years. Aid-for-disarmament negotiations have been stalled for years.
The South Korean public largely remains opposed to the bilateral agreement, but we hope that the next South Korean administration set to launch in May will respect the accord.