2016: Are you siding with US, or China

Peace Network Korea
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The Next US Government Will "Reconsider" the Deployment of THAAD

["THAAD Deployment Is Toxic To US As Well" Vol. 1]
Jung Uk-sik, Peace Network
(Original texts: http://www.pressian.com/news/article.html?no=140445)

"Are you siding with US, or China?"

This is the question we have brought on ourselves, with regard to the controversy surrounding THAAD deployment. It has become an odd dichotomy in South Korea these days to equate opposition to THAAD deployment with "pro-China and anti-US" position, and support for THAAD deployment with "anti-China and pro-US" position. 

The media and the political class, which should be mediating between different concerns surrounding this issue, are not doing much to create a space for rational discussions. But rather,  they seem to be the ones causing unnecessary controversies, which is ultimately self-defeating. The issue of THAAD deployment involves a potentially volatile relationship in international politics, which is strategic partnership between US and China. That is why this issue is a complex one -so complex that it cannot be constrained in a false dichotomy.

I have already argued in the past that the deployment of THAAD will greatly impact the strategic balance between US and China, and that China, which considers this issue to be of "core interest," will not back down that easily. I have also emphasized that unlike some would like to have us believe, US will not retaliate even if South Korea decides to suspend or pulls out of the agreement.

But there is one problem that we have not examined yet, which is possibly, a more important one. It is the fact that the next administration in the US will "take a new look" at the deployment of THAAD, mainly because China and Russia will be determined to initiate negotiations on the matter. Of course, it is too early to predict where that negotiation might lead us.

Xi Jinping and Putin's "Face-off" Strategy

At the Hangzhou G20 Summit about to be held next month in September, China and Russia will try their best to dissuade President Park Geun-hye and President Obama from their decision to deploy THAAD in South Korea. But that is highly likely to fail. President Park's obsession with THAAD has almost gotten to a point of religious faith. President Obama has only a few months left in office, and it would be difficult for him to back out of it now. If he announces he will reconsider THAAD deployment a few months ahead of the election, it will look like he caved to the demands by China and Russia, and that could be a disaster for the election.

That is why President Xi Jin-ping and President Vladimir Putin will try "face-off" strategy against the next President of the United States, which will present him or her with two options: "Are you going to risk strategic alliance of China and Russia by deploying THAAD, or are you going to withdraw this plan and build new relationship with us?

In "Joint Statement on Strengthening Global Strategic Stability" signed by two leaders last June 25th, Xi Jinping and Putin have already declared that they will respond to the THAAD deployment in South Korea by strengthening ties between two nations. In fact, China's warnings had been more blunt than the statement itself. In a meeting with President Obama last March 31st, Xi Jinping had warned Obama that "THAAD deployment will not only be harmful to others(China), but to yourself(US) as well."

The "Dagger" is Strategic Arms Trade

China and Russia are nuclear powers, and sit on the UN Security Council. If two countries go on to forge strong alliance, the United States will have a much harder time making their way through international affairs. There are some noticeable changes already -after the THAAD deployment announcement, the two countries have been "low-key" in their response to North Korea's recent round of ballistic missle launch tests. They have taken steps to expand joint military exercise programs designed to contain US-led Missile Defense system, and create their own MD system.

It is also likely that China and Russia will further their cooperation in (potential) conflict zones such as Ukraine and Syria. The "weak links" of East Asia -South China Sea, Taiwan Strait, East China Sea- might see China-Russia alliance emerging on the scene, all of which will be a headache for the United States.

Ultimately, the "dagger" into their heart will be the two nations' cooperation on strategic arms development. Russia has been developing various types of strategic arms aimed at neutralizing MD. China has been investing in this area, but technologically, it falls far behind Russia. If China and Russia were to cooperate on strategic arms development, it will merge Russia's "technology" and China's "cash."

Cooperation on strategic arms development could take place in many different areas. Together, they could work on developing high-tech weaponry including "disturbance matter," which will make it difficult for MD system to differentiate between real warheads from fake ones, "MIRV," which makes several warheads change their course and hit different targets, and "hyper-sonic vehicle," which has the capacity to neutralize the current MD system, and satellite destroyers that are essential to modern-day military technology.

THAAD deployment could also bring about shift in China's nuclear policy. There are two pillars to China's nuclear policy. The first one is "Minimal Deterrence," and the second one is "No First Use." In order to counter THAAD deployment, China might change its course and maintain the level of readiness for the 2nd strike. Specifically, the measures might include developing more nuclear missiles; and it might change its tone and choose to be much more vague on "No First Use" principle.

For instance, just by altering the status to "LOW(Launch On Warning)" of detached nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles, China could make the United States nervous. Currently, the only country in the world that maintains this level of readiness is Russia. If China joins Russia on this, the United States becomes more vulnerable strategically. If the United States continues to avoid talks while using North Korea as a pawn, North Korea might be the next party to join Russia on the "LOW" status.

Considering all of these potential consequences, THAAD deployment is likely to do more harm than good to the United States as well. Growing threats overseas may be a blessing to the US Military Industrial Complex, but overall, a disaster to the United States as a nation.

Translation: Jeonghyun Seong (seongjeonghyun@gmail.com)

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