US Army chief vis­its East Asia amid ten­sion

Talks in China, Repub­lic of Korea and Ja­pan will ad­dress de­ploy­ment of con­tro­ver­sial anti-mis­sile sys­tem in ROK

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By ZHANG YUNBI in Bei­jing zhangyunbi@chi­

China hopes Wash­ing­ton “places a high pri­or­ity and prop­erly tack­les” its plan to de­ploy an ad­vanced anti-mis­sile sys­tem in the Repub­lic of Korea, a se­nior Chi­nese mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said on Tues­day.

Li Zuocheng, com­man­der of the PLA Army, made the state­ment when meet­ing with US Army Chief of Staff Mark Mil­ley in Bei­jing.

Mil­ley, start­ing his first of­fi­cial visit to Bei­jing amid lin­ger­ing ten­sion trig­gered by the plan to de­ploy the Ter­mi­nal High Alti­tude Area De­fense sys­tem, was quoted by the Min­istry of Na­tional De­fense as say­ing that he ex­pects the two mil­i­taries to re­in­force ex­changes and boost trust.

He is sched­uled to visit China, the ROK and Ja­pan from Mon­day to Aug 23, and in the ROK he will re­ceive an up­date on plans to de­ploy the THAAD sys­tem there, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease by the US Pa­cific Com­mand.

In re­cent months, Bei­jing and Moscow have re­sponded strongly against THAAD, as the X-band radar as­so­ci­ated with the sys­tem is known to lo­cate mis­siles as far away as 2,000 kilo­me­ters, which would only cover ter­ri­to­ries of both China and Rus­sia.

Mas­sive protests have also bro­ken out in var­i­ous parts of the ROK, urg­ing ROK Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye to abort the de­ploy­ment plan.

Ruan Zongze, vice-pres­i­dent of the China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, said that a num­ber of se­nior US mil­i­tary of­fi­cials vis­ited the ROK re­cently to ad­vance the de­ploy­ment, and that Wash­ing­ton’s anx­i­ety is be­hind such moves.

“Quite a long time ago, the Pen­tagon had planned to in­tro­duce THAAD into the ROK but there was mere chance. Now it hopes to put it in place at an ear­lier date to avoid missing the rare chance,” Ruan said.

Zhao Xiaozhuo, a re­searcher at the Cen­ter on China-US De­fense Re­la­tions at the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army Academy of Mil­i­tary Science, said the THAAD sys­tem “ac­tu­ally di­min­ishes the strate­gic de­ter­rence of China and Rus­sia”, and the ac­tion of tar­get­ing China and Rus­sia “af­fects global strate­gic sta­bil­ity”.

“What the US is do­ing will prompt Bei­jing and Moscow to ex­pand co­op­er­a­tion in the an­timis­sile field,” Zhao said, and in­creased en­gage­ment in Asia Pa­cific af­fairs via fu­el­ing ten­sions “will bring more prob­lems.”

Dur­ing the fourth China-Rus­sia North­east Asia Security Con­sul­ta­tion on July 28, Bei­jing and Moscow agreed that they will “proac­tively con­sider strength­en­ing bi­lat­eral co­or­di­nat­ing measures” to tackle po­ten­tial neg­a­tive fac­tors posed by the THAAD plan.

Cur­rently, there is ba­si­cally bal­ance in the com­pe­ti­tion and co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Bei­jing and Wash­ing­ton, but if the US per­sists in re­in­forc­ing its in­vest­ment in con­taining China, “the con­fronta­tional color of China-US ties will be stronger,” Zhao said.

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