10 February 2016
With Seoul and Washington poised to initiate official talks over the deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense asset on the peninsula, intense debate is raging over the diplomatic and military consequences of the deployment.
The debate has been escalating with China and Russia expressing vehement opposition to the installment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system that the U.S. Forces Korea wants to better cope with North Korea’s evolving nuclear and missile threats.
Proponents argue that China’s arguments against THAAD are misplaced, and that from a strictly military standpoint, an addition of the missile defense system is necessary to maintain a robust deterrence against the unpredictable regime in Pyongyang.
Opponents, however, argue that the move by the allies toward deploying THAAD here could be a “strategic mistake” as the deployment could strain ties between Seoul and Beijing, and between Washington and Beijing, as well as escalate Cold War-like tensions in Northeast Asia.
Michael Raska, assistant professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore said that THAAD, should it be deployed here, would help advance the allies’ missile defense and early warning capabilities.
“THAAD would provide another layer of defense for South Korea,” he said. “Notwithstanding its political significance in terms of U.S. strategic reassurance for the defense of South Korea, at the operational level, it will significantly improve joint U.S.-ROK (Republic of Korea) early warning capabilities through a sophisticated radar system, and ultimately, strengthen South Korea’s evolving ballistic missile shield.”
He added that Beijing’s key concern vis-a-vis THAAD would be that the new missile defense system could be employed to undercut China’s missile capabilities. He also pointed out that while China remains opposed to THAAD, it does not duly address Pyongyang’s missile threats.
“Beijing’s key strategic concern is that the THAAD system could potentially constrain the military effectiveness of Chinese ballistic missiles, particularly in a potential conflict with Japan,” he said.
“The downgrade of its missile capabilities, from the Chinese strategic perspective, would then likely result in a regional arms race. While Beijing opposes THAAD, interestingly, it does not point to the root causes for its deployment — North Korean ballistic missiles. Indeed, Beijing has been virtually silent on North Korean ballistic missile threat.”
IDSS / Online / Print
Last updated on 11/02/2016