China reacted sharply on Friday to the US decision to deploy a missile defence system in South Korea, saying it would harm Beijing's strategic security interests and heighten military tensions in the Korean peninsula.
Beijing’s reaction came within hours of Seoul announcing that the US and South Korea had made a joint decision to deploy the advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system, designed to shoot down short, medium and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
The US has a military presence in South Korea under a bilateral agreement.
The decision to deploy the system came in the wake of North Korea carrying out tests of the Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile that could threaten US military bases in Japan and within South Korea. The missile is believed to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
In a joint statement, Seoul and Washington said the THAAD system will target missiles from North Korea, which shares a tense border with South Korea.
But the statement was no assurance for China.
“The Chinese side is strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposes to this,” China’s foreign ministry said in statement on Friday morning.
The statement added the “deployment is not conducive to achieving denuclearisation in the Peninsula and maintaining its peace and stability”. China urged the two countries to withdraw their decision.
It asked the “US and Republic of Korea to terminate the deployment of THAAD” and “not to take actions which tend to complicate regional situation and harm China's strategic security interests”.
A report from Seoul by China’s official Xinhua news agency said the decision had triggered “various controversies as it causes regional tensions and strong oppositions from people living in candidate sites amid remaining doubts about its military effectiveness”.
It quoted the Russian ambassador to South Korea, Alexander Timonin, as saying earlier that the US missile system would neither lend any support to peace and stability in Northeast Asia, nor provide any benefit in resolving nuclear issues on the Korean peninsula.
The report questioned the effectiveness of the THAAD system. “Military effectiveness of the THAAD operation in the South Korean soil has been in doubt as the advanced US missile defense system is designed to track and destroy missiles at a high altitude of 40-150 km. Hundreds of DPRK missiles targeting South Korea will fly at a much lower altitude of less than 20 km,” it said.