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Implications: Despite the 2017 agreement between Seoul and Beijing that addressed the latter’s concern around the presence of U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles in South Korea, the relitigation of the controversy suggests that the missile defense system remains a wedge issue. Beijing’s response to developments at the THAAD base may have been colored by the White House hinting its intentions to mobilize its allies in the ongoing standoff with China. As U.S.-China tensions worsen, Beijing’s criticism of THAAD may also intensify in the coming weeks and months.
Context: THAAD has been a major source of tension between China and South Korea because of its ability to thwart Chinese missile capabilities. When it was first deployed to Korea in 2017, China responded with unofficial sanctions and boycotts that cost the South Korean economy about USD 6.8 billion. Although an agreement was eventually reached and the sanctions and boycott were lifted, the issue remains a provocative topic in ROK-China relations.
Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Gordon Henning, Soojin Hwang, and Ingyeong Park.
Picture from Lockheed Martin‘s flickr account