To have or not to have THAAD(Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense), that is the question in Korea today.
On this question, opinions are split between different political groups as well as among experts, the media and people in general.
The generation who personally experienced the Korean War (1950-3) and the established generation, who are mostly conservatives, support the deployment of THAAD in Korea. However, the liberally-minded people, especially the young generation, are opposed to it.
The opponents, mostly opposition politicians and opposition-oriented media, are worried about the protest from mainland China and Russia as well as from North Korea.
However, the issue, in fact, is very simple according to some experts, and Korea can find an amicable solution easily.
The main opponent is China and she is worried that the THAAD radar has a range of over 2,000 kilometers which include much of her territory. If Russia is not happy with THAAD in Korea, the reason should be similar to that of China.
Korea does not need a 2,000km THAAD radar, experts say. All it needs is an 800km one in protecting itself from North Korea’s possible nuclear missile attack.
If North Korea is not happy with South Korea’s deployment of a 800km THAAD, all it has to do is just dismantle all its nuclear development-production sites?or sell them all to South Korea who will be more than happy to pay full price, buy them all up and destroy them under the supervisionof International Atomic Energy Agency.
It is not clear at this time if South Korea should insist on having only 800km-radar THAAD or what the response of the United States might be. However, since the US wants to deploy the THAAD batteries in Korea ‘to deter the nuclear attack of North Korea’ it would find little justification in deploying THAAD with a 2,000km radar capability.
If China still tries to oppose even the 800km THAAD, it, too, has little justification. Korea just can ignore it with the support of the international community as well as the consensus of the people.
Whatever the responses of the US, China, Russia or North Korea maybe, it appears that South Korea will eventually have THAAD in Korea in view of the politico-ideological terrain of Korea.
Generally, the breakdown of the politico-ideological tendencies of the Korean people is roughly35% conservatives, 45% middle-of-the-roaders, 15% liberals, 2% progressives and 1% (or less) radical progressives (AKA liberal extremists), some of whom would hail the recent assault against US Ambassador Mark Lippert in Seoul.
There will be heated discussions between the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) who has made considerable gains thanks to the serious decline of the popularityof President Park Geun-hye (who, however, now seems to be recovering it following her Middle East tour and crackdown on corrupt ranking officials).
A typical strong supporter of the THAAD deployment in Korea is Prof. Park Hwee-rhak at the Graduate School of Politics and Leadership at Kookmin University in Seoul. He has spoken on the topic at various meetings, including one at a discussion meeting hosted by the Citizens United for Better Society in Seoul on Feb. 24, 2015. Here are excerpts from the points stressed by Prof. Park on THAAD development in Korea:
Why South Korea must have THAAD deployed in Korea:
How long are we going to waste time with political bickering on the question of deployment of THAAD in Korea?Joining the wasteful discussions are not only politicians and parliamentarians but also some journalists.
In the case of Japan, the missile defense system such as THAAD is handled mainly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense and the discussions are off limit to politicians.
In Korea, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) should handle the matter with professional expertise and experience with a sense of responsibility. The political arena could be given access to the discussions but it is doubtful if an objective answer could be found at this juncture when the politicians are arguing based on partisan interests.
The threat of nuclear attack from North Korea is immediate in the case of South Korea and it is far more real and critical compared with Japan. However, Japan is keener to the North Korea threat than South Korea is, and has steadfastly prepared defense measures against it beginning early as in 200Since 1993 when North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), Japan started discussing the matter with the US envisaging the eventual nuclear threat to come from North Korea.
Based on this plan, Japan has developed and acquired an appropriate weapons system with a targeted time of completion of the initial defense capabilities by the end of 2017. As a result, Japan now has a total of 17 PAC-3 batteries, four naval destroyers equipped with SM-3 missiles, FPS-3 and FPS-5 radars developed in-house and two systems of US X-Band radar.
In the near future, Japan is scheduled to have four more Aegis destroyers armed with SM-3 missiles and complete the 500km SM-3 Block IIA missiles by 2017 to be handed over to the competent military units of Japan by around 2018.
While Japan has done all this, she has never given any thought to any possible response from China.
In contrast with Japan, South Korea is exceptionally concerned with the response of China. Such position of South Korea can be hardly explained or justified other than that it comes from flunkeyism or worship of the powerful on the part of some politicians and media.
Some of the opponents against the deployment of THAAD in Korea believe that the deployment in Korea is same as joining the Missile Defense (MD) plan of the US. This is not true and is totally ungrounded.
It is misleading to the Korean people. Some Koreans even spread false rumors that if THAAD is deployed in Korea there will be a war between the US and China.
In fact, some of such THAAD opponents, who instigate resistance against THAAD deployment in Korea with a slogan of “No to Korea’s participation in the US MD system,” caused the Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND) to make a misjudgment and mistakenly purchase PAC-2 ground forces’ interception missiles, which has a limited capability in the ballistic middle defense and SM-2 naval interception missiles.
Ultimately, the Korean opponents against THAAD deployment in Korea made the MND waste several trillion of won (several US billion dollars) when Korea has to buy PAC-3 and SM-3 missiles in the future due to the lack of desired defense capabilities of PAC-2 and SM-2 missiles that can hardly provide adequate defense from North Korean nuclear attacks.
What should South Korea do if and when North Korea should launch a nuclear missile attack against the South?
The most urgent task of South Korea in its security and national defense is how to defend itself from possible North Korean nuclear missile attack.
If North Korea launches a nuclear missile attack, South Korea has no effective measure of defense.
The primary mission of the MND is to defend the lives and properties of the people in any and all circumstances. If North Korea is confirmed to launch nuclear missile attack against South Korea, it is only natural that the South should concentrate on making preparations to defend itself from such an attack.
The MND should have established appropriate plans to intercept and defend the people and country against possible nuclear missile attack from North Korea. South Korea should try to purchase an effective weapons system as soon as possible to defend itself from the North Korean nuclear missile attack. There is no time to waste due to the opposition offered by the people who demand, ‘No participation in US MD system’ or ‘No to THAAD deployment in Korea.’
Defense Minister Han Min-koo testified at a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Oct. 7, 2014, “We do not have adequate means to defend ourselves if North Korea shouldlaunch a nuclear missile attack and I would say that deployment of THAAD batteries in Korea would give us much help in our national security and defense.”
Other than the misconception and misunderstanding concerning the THAAD deployment in Korea, there is no logical reason for opposing the deployment.
Now what is the position of the opponents against the THAAD development in Korea? Here is an example
Why we are opposed to the THAAD deployment in Korea(KyunghayngShinmun daily editorial, March 9, 2015):
We must say no to the United States who has carried out a survey of sites in Korea for the deployment of US THAAD. The ROK-US Combined Forces Command confirmed the day before yesterday (March 7, 2015) that it had actually conducted the survey?putting an end to the ‘strategic ambiguity’ that it had maintained on the question of THAAD deployment. The confirmation could be considered a signal to make the THAAD issue public. The confirmation is also seen as an effort to get a free ride taking advantage of the ruling Saenuri Party’s movement to make public the THAAD issue in the wake of pro-US mood growing in Korea after the liberal extremist’s assault on US Ambassador Mark Lippert in Seoul. The change in the attitude of the US Forces seems to come as a pressure on the Korean government.
The Korean government has so far been ‘walking on a tight rope’ in a manner of indecision betweenthe demand from the US and repercussions from China. However, time now has come for the Korean government to make a decision as it has no way out.
The US emphasizes that THAAD deployment in Korea is a requirement in order to intercept North Korean nuclear missiles. However, THAAD missiles have not yet been proven as being effective in actual military operations. Furthermore, the North Korean missiles are no high-altitude missiles. Experts say that even if North Korea has developed such missiles they can be easily intercepted with the US missiles already deployed in Korea.
There is no evidence that North Korean has developed any small-type nuclear weaponsto be carried by missiles. In this regard, the Chinese assertion that the THAAD in Korea is intended against China rather than North Korea appears convincing.
The US asserts that the scanning range of THAAD in Korea does not reach China. If so, there is no reason for the US to deploy THAAD radars in addition to the existing ones.
Another question is the fact that it costs several trillion won (several billion US dollars) to install one THAAD battery.
The Korean government should have clearly stated its opposition when the US tried to deploy THAAD in Korea. This is because THAAD in Korea would turn Korea into an arena of competition and confrontation between one group (formed with South Korea, US and Japan) and the other group (with North Korea, China and Russia). Such a situation is harmful to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula. There would also be great losses in the economic cooperation between Korea and China.
The Korean government has time and again assured that it would play a leading role in maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula. Korea should try not to be pushed around by any side, but must say no to the US and China when it thinks ‘no’ is the right answer.
As far as deployment of THAAD in Korea is concerned, conflict of interest between the US and China is inevitable. However, it is hard to understand why the US, all of a sudden, took an attitude that ran against the position of the Presidential Mansion of Cheong WaDae of South Korea.
Just one day earlier, the Office of the President announced that Korea had received no request from the US or consultation concerning THAAD deployment in Korea, nor has it made any decision on the issue.