China demands US end military exercises in South Korea
Wednesday - 26/04/2017 16:45
US TROOPS have begun delivering a missile defence system to a deployment site in South Korea in a move that has infuriated China.
Washington is urging Beijing — Pyongyang’s sole major ally — to do more to rein it in, but the Asian giant has reacted with fury to the planned installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system.
The US and ally South Korea say its deployment, agreed last year, is intended to guard against missile threats from the nuclear-armed North.
But China fears it will weaken its own ballistic capabilities and says it upsets the regional security balance.
TV footage showed large trailers in camouflage paint carrying what appeared to be missile-related equipment entering a former golf course in the southern county of Seongju on Wednesday morning.
THAAD “will be operational in the coming days and able to better defend South Korea against the growing North Korean threat,” Admiral Harry Harris, who heads Pacific Command, told politicians in Washington.
Hundreds of residents — who are concerned over the potential environmental impact — protested angrily, some clashing with police. More than 10 were injured including three who were hospitalised, activists said.
Seoul’s defence ministry said Wednesday’s move was aimed at “securing operational capability of the THAAD as soon as possible”, with a goal of fully installing the batteries by the end of this year.
The South is holding a presidential election next month to choose a successor to ousted leader Park Geun-hye, and Seoul and Washington are pressing ahead with the deployment with some candidates ambivalent over the system — including frontrunner Moon Jae-in, of the left-leaning Democratic Party.
His spokesman Park Kwang-on expressed “strong regret” at the delivery, saying it ignored “required procedures”.
“This move has shut off any room for policy considerations by the next government and it is very improper,” he said.
Beijing condemned the move, with foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang telling reporters the THAAD deployment “severely undermines China’s strategic security interests”.
“It helps in no way to achieve the denuclearisation of the peninsula and regional peace and stability,” he said, adding China would “take necessary measures to safeguard its own interests”.
Beijing has imposed a host of measures seen as economic retaliation against the South, including a ban on tour groups.
Retail conglomerate Lotte, which previously owned the golf course, has also been targeted, with 85 of its 99 stores in China shut down, while South Korea’s biggest automaker Hyundai Motor said Wednesday its Chinese sales fell 44 per cent last month.
BISHOP CALLS NORTH KOREA ‘PROVOCATIVE AND BELLIGERENT’
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has ramped up her condemnation of North Korea, saying it is “provocative and belligerent”.
Speaking on Wednesday in Tallinn, Estonia, Ms Bishop said North Korea has disregarded international law, violated UN Security Council resolutions on numerous occasions, and is “causing great tension in our region, that’s why Australia and others have called North Korea to change its behaviour”.
Amid rising tensions between North Korea and South Korea and the United States, Australia wants “to see a denuclearised Korean Peninsula,” she added.
The Turnbull government has said North Korea does not currently have nuclear weapons capable of reaching Australia.
However, some news reports say North Korea has identified the Australian city of Darwin as a target because US Marines are using it as a training hub.
The Australian government and Pyongyang have traded a series of insults over the past week.
On Saturday Pyongyang said Australia was “blindly and zealously toeing the US line” and accused Ms Bishop of “spouting a string of rubbish against the DPRK over its entirely just steps for self-defence”.
It was in response to earlier comments made by Ms Bishop which called for sanctions on the rogue state.
KIM JONG-UN ‘MUST COME TO HIS SENSES’
A top US admiral said America wants to bring North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to “his senses,” as senators attended an extraordinary briefing at the White House.
Admiral Harry Harris, who heads the Pacific Command, welcomed recent efforts by Beijing to try to defuse soaring tensions between Pyongyang and Washington, and suggested a non-military solution remained the preferred outcome.
“In confronting the reckless North Korean regime, it’s critical that we’re guided by a strong sense of resolve, both privately and publicly, both diplomatically and militarily,” he said. “All options are on the table. We want to bring Kim Jong-un to his senses, not to his knees.”
Meanwhile, all 100 senators filed onto charter buses for a short ride to the White House, after being summoned to receive a classified briefing on North Korea and its nuclear weapons program. The executive mansion is an extremely rare venue for such an event.
The briefing was being led by Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and General Joe Dunford, who is America’s top officer and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.