Mattis reassures S.Korea, Japan
China reiterates opposition to deployment of THAAD
China on Friday reiterated its opposition to the deployment of a US missile defense system in South Korea, after the US defense secretary reaffirmed the deployment in Seoul.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang reiterated China’s opposition on Friday, which he said would never change.
“We do not believe this move will be conducive to resolving the Korean Pen- insula nuclear issue or to maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula,” Lu told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis and his South Korean counterpart Han Min-koo said the allies will push forward the deployment plan “within this year,” South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported.
“Mattis’ first trip abroad as defense secretary showed that Trump’s security policy toward the Asia-Pacific
region is consistent with that of the Obama Administration,” Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times.
“The policy is likely to be even tougher, considering that the new South Korean government, which will be elected this year, might object to the deployment,” Li said.
Echoing Li, Liu Weidong, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the visit is intended to send a clear signal to the future South Korean president.
North Korea, which regularly threatens to destroy South Korea and its main ally, the US, conducted more than 20 missile tests last year, as well as two nuclear tests, in defiance of UN resolutions and sanctions.
Once fully developed, a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) could threaten the continental US, which is about 9,000 kilometers from North Korea. ICBMs have a minimum range of about 5,500 kilometers, but some are designed to travel 10,000 kilometers or more.
North Korea also appears to have restarted operation of a reactor at its main Yongbyon nuclear facility that produces plutonium that can be used for its nuclear weapons program, according to the US think tank 38 North.
“Any attack on the US, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming,” Mattis said while reassuring South Korea of steadfast US support, Reuters reported on Friday.
“His reaffirmation of the alliance also delivered a message to China and North Korea that there is no opportunity to take advantage of [the discord between former President Barack Obama and Trump],” Liu told the Global Times.
No room for doubt
During a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Friday, Mattis appeared eager to reassure Japan of US resolve, after an election campaign that saw Trump question the value of US alliances, Reuters reported.
Mattis said provocations by North Korea, which is advancing its nuclear weapons and missile programs, left no room for doubt about US commitment. It was a similar message he delivered over the past two days in South Korea.
“Previously the Pentagon was more impacted by the White House, but Mattis has confirmed his role in leading the White House in terms of defense policies,” Liu noted.
Trump singled out both South Korea and Japan on the campaign trail, suggesting they were benefiting from the US security umbrella with- out sharing enough of the costs.
Japan has been keenly awaiting assurances that Trump’s administration would honor Washington’s previous commitment to defend disputed East China Sea islands that are under Japanese control but claimed also by China.
Kyodo news agency, citing an unidentified Japanese government source, said Mattis had confirmed that the US defense commitment extended to the Diaoyu Islands.
Abe said he was convinced that, with Trump and Mattis, the US and Japan could demonstrate to the world their “unwavering alliance.”
“It also reflected US’ attempt to further disrupt the Asia-Pacific region under the Trump administration,” Li said.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida echoed that message to Mattis in a meeting later on Friday, saying it was important to further strengthen the alliance in the face of an “increasingly severe” security environment in the region.
Mattis is due to hold talks on Saturday with Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, who has repeatedly said Japan is bearing its fair share of the costs for US troops stationed there and has stressed that the alliance is good for both countries.