US, Japan Back South Korea over China’s Alleged Economic Retaliation Because of THAAD Missile Shield

South Korean protesters shout slogans such as 'Stop Thaad!' and 'No War!' during a rally against a meeting of US Vice President Mike Pence and South Korean Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn (both not pictured), near the prime minister's official residence in Seoul, South Korea, 17 April 2017. Photo: Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • US, Japan, and South Korea have defended the deployment of the US missile defense system THAAD in South Korea because of the North Korean threat.
  • The three powers have held the 9th session of their Defense Trilateral Talks.
  • Without naming China, they have alluded to what are reported to be economic measures retaliating against South Korea because of the THAAD.

While they did not name China explicitly, the United States and Japan have supported South Korea in urging end to retaliatory economic measures against Seoul over the deployment of the US missile shield THAAD because of North Korea.

In early March 2017, the US began the deployment of the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, formerly known as Theater High Altitude Area Defense), a missile shield allegedly designed to protect South Korea, and, by extension, Japan, from ballistic missile attacks by the regime of Kim Jong-un in North Korea.

Both China and Russia, which are North Korea’s neighbors, have reacted by condemning the US missile defense system’s deployment, arguing that it can be used to reduce their own capabilities.

In late February, Chinese state media reacted angrily after retailer Lotte, which is South Korea’s fifth largest company, made a land swap with the South Korean Ministry of National Defense, providing an old golf course in Seongju for THAAD’s deployment.

China has not introduced any formal economic sanctions against South Korea because of the US missile shield but South Korean media have reported of unofficial calls or policies that seem to be affecting South Korean products.

Alluding to China

South Korea, the United States and Japan united on Wednesday, in essence urging China to stop economic retaliation on Seoul because of the deployment of the US missile system THAAD, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

Senior defense officials from the US, Japan, and South Korea made the call at the Defense Trilateral Talks (DTT) in Tokyo, which focused on their joint response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

In the ninth session of the Defense Trilateral Talks launched in 2008, South Korea was represented by Wee Seung-ho, deputy minister for policy. His American and Japanese counterparts were David F. Helvey, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, and Satoshi Maeda, director general for defense policy.

In a joint press statement, without naming China, the US, Japan, and South Korea alluded to what is interpreted as “thinly veiled” Chinese economic sanctions on Seoul over THAAD’s deployment.

Yonhap says China has reacted angrily, putting pressure on the local affiliates of Lotte Group, which provided the land for the THAAD site.

The South Korean news agency says there have been a series of reports that China’s authorities have curbed South Korea’s cultural products and discouraged its nationals from traveling to the nation.

At their Defense Trilateral Talks, South Korea, the US and Japan described such measures as “irrational and inappropriate.”

They stressed that the move to bring a THAAD unit to the peninsula is a defensive measure to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

The regional powers also called on all parties concerned to play an active role for a resolution to the “fundamental problem” that has led to the allies’ decision to deploy the missile shield on South Korean soil.

They urged the North Korean regime to refrain from taking additional provocative acts and give up its weapons of mass destruction development in a “complete and irreversible” manner.

“The three countries agreed to strengthen deterrence against North Korea and emphasized the importance of close cooperation among their defense authorities for an effective response in case of a contingency,” the US, Japan, and South Korea said in the statement, vowing to constantly boost “interoperability” among them.

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