Mat­tis reassures S.Korea, Ja­pan

China re­it­er­ates op­po­si­tion to de­ploy­ment of THAAD

Global Times - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Chen Hey­ing

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.

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