Senior officials from Russia and China held talks in Beijing and shared concerns about the possible deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system to South Korea, according to China’s official media on Tuesday.
The talks, led by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and Kong Xuanyou, China’s assistant foreign minister, were held on Monday, on the same day the U.S. and China began their high-level talks in Beijing.
During the Monday talks, Russia and China expressed their “firm opposition” to the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery to South Korea, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.
In the wake of North Korea’s fourth nuclear test and the launch of a long-range rocket earlier this year, South Korea and the U.S. started formal talks on deploying a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery to South Korea to better defend Seoul from Pyongyang’s growing threats.
For South Korea, the decision to adopt the U.S. missile system was based on its national security interests to enhance its defense posture against North Korea’s advances in nuclear and missile programs.
Russia and China have long voiced opposition to the deployment of a THAAD battery to South Korea, claiming that the U.S. missile shield may undermine the strategic balance in the region.
South Korea and the U.S. have dismissed the concerns, saying the THAAD system is defensive in nature and would only target North Korea.
In an interview with CNN that aired on Monday morning, South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo said the deployment of a THAAD battery will “dramatically” enhance South Korea’s capacity to counter North Korea’s missile threats.
“South Korea only has the capacity to intercept missiles at its terminal phase. So we have limitations. If THAAD is deployed to U.S. forces in Korea, our capability will be dramatically enhanced. There are definite military benefits to this,” Han was quoted as saying in the interview.