Commentary: The race for missiles in East Asia’s danger zone

Commentary: The race for missiles in East Asia’s danger zone

Lockheed Martin’s Airport terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, was designed to help protect Southern Korea against episodes from North Korea; instead it became the biggest obstacle to relations between Beijing and Seoul within decades when its deployment was announced in 2016.

Fearing the system could allow the US to monitor its capabilities, China declared THAAD a threat towards the status quo. The system, without any offensive strike capability, led Beijing in order to declare an unofficial trade war upon South Korea, striking the likes of Lotte Group with company suspensions on spurious grounds, squeezing travel and leisure revenue by suspending sales of deal tours to Southern Korea, and even harming the K-pop company.

It was an extraordinary moment of Chinese heavy-handedness, and should have been a warning to the US about how Beijing treats the neighbours.

The particular dovish Moon Jae-in, who came into workplace the following year, just encouraged future deployments of this strategy simply by acquiescing to Chinese demands with his “Three Nos” policy: Simply no extra THAAD deployments, no participation in an US-led missile-defence system and no involvement within a three-way alliance with all the US and The japanese.

Their successor Yoon Suk Yeol pledged in order to expand the THAAD system. There’s simply no immediate sign of that happening, but Yoon’s administration has declined the Three Nos and said the matter will be “not negotiable”.

Perhaps there is less at stake at this point: A zero-COVID Beijing can’t exactly cut-off tourists to Southern Korea this time. However the threat from Northern Korea hasn’t long gone away, even if the fake nation’s place in the particular headlines has diminished from the days of “fire and fury”; Pyongyang has already fired a lot more ballistic missiles in 2022 than some other year.