China seeks Russian support on US missile shield

Beijing: China and Russia have vowed “to take further action” against the United States’ ambition to build a global anti-missile shield that they argue will give US forces a unilateral military advantage.

Chinese and Russian officials met in Moscow on Wednesday within hours of the installation by the US of large parts of the controversial THAAD anti-missile radar at Seonju, 300 kilometres from Seoul.

“China and Russia will take further action to counter this and to safeguard their security interests and the regional strategic balance of China and Russia,” said Major General Cai Jun from the Joint Staff Department of China’s Central Military Commission in a statement.

The South Korean government has said the THAAD system will defend South Korea from any North Korean missile attack, amid increasing activity by Kim Jong-un’s missile and nuclear testing program, which breaches United Nations resolutions.

China has objected to the THAAD radar, which it fears will be used to spy on Chinese military activity.

The controversy echoes the dispute between Moscow and the US over a Europe anti-missile shield, first proposed in 2007 by the George W Bush administration. A plan to install a radar base in the Czech Republic was scrapped by the Obama administration in the face of Russian protests.

But Russia continues to object to a revised NATO shield that began to be deployed in Romania last year.

General Cai Jun said the anti-missile system would worsen tensions on the Korean Peninsula and “cause regional confrontation or even a comprehensive arms race”.

The chief of China’s National Security Commission, Li Zhanshu, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday, with state media reporting Chinese President Xi Jinping had sent the message that “no matter how the international situation changes” Chinese and Russian cooperation would remain stable.

Even as the US and China appeared to be working closely on the North Korean nuclear issue, the cooperation of Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, will still be needed to impose stricter sanctions on North Korea at a Security Council meeting on Friday.

There is concern in China that as Beijing enforces tough sanctions, the Kim regime may turn to trade with Moscow instead. Russia and China have traditionally competed for port and fishing access rights in North Korea.

Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command, told a United States committee hearing on Wednesday that THAAD would become operational ” in the coming days”.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry responded that it was “the target” to have THAAD fully operational by the end of the year, but it would have “combat capacity” sooner.

– with Sanghee Liu

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