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Why China is opposing THAAD defence systems in South Korea?

Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

Why China is opposing THAAD defence systems in South Korea?

What to study?

For Prelims: What is THAAD, how it operates?

For Mains: Significance and concerns for China, global implications.

What is THAAD Defence system?

THAAD is an acronym for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense.

It is a transportable, ground-based missile defense system.

This anti-ballistic missile defense system has been designed and manufactured by the US company Lockheed Martin.

How it operates?

THAAD is coupled with space-based and ground-based surveillance stations, which transfer data about the incoming missile and informs the THAAD interceptor missile of the threat type classification. THAAD is alarmed about incoming missiles by space-based satellites with infrared sensors.

Where all it has been deployed?

South Korea, the UAE, Guam, Israel and Romania.

What is this South Korea-China controversy over THAAD about?

  • US has a base in South Korea. So, the US operates THAAD missile defense system in this base.
  • The US had previously announced that the deployment of this missile defense system was a countermeasure against potential attacks by North Korea, particularly after the country had engaged in testing ballistic missiles.
  • This was felt necessary for the US because, in 2017, matters escalated in the Korean Peninsula after North Korea test fired a few missiles in the direction of US bases in Japan. 
  • These moves by the US and by extension, South Korea, particularly angered China.

China’s concerns are based on the following:

The system has inbuilt advanced radar systems that could track China’s actions.

The US having a presence in the region particularly through its many military bases in Japan and South Korea is particularly worrying for China.

The US exerts influence over South Korea and Japan and may interfere with Beijing’s long-term military, diplomatic and economic interests in the region.

How this controversy has affected South Korea?

The impact of the controversy was not limited to a diplomatic level, but had far-reaching consequences.

  1. When the controversy first arose in 2017, China had hit South Korea economically. South Korean businesses, including large conglomerates found their diversified operations hampered.
  2. Post this development in 2017, tourism from China to South Korea fell drastically.
  3. South Korea’s entertainment industry witnessed concerts, shows and other commercial ventures in China by K-pop stars being forced to cancel as a result of this controversy.
  4. South Korean cosmetics and beauty products that are extremely popular in China also witnessed their sales being impacted, due to calls on social media to boycott South Korean products.


What next?

Following the deployment of replacement missiles now, China has issued a statement urging the US not to harm bilateral relations between Beijing and Seoul.

The US and South Korea have consistently maintained that these missiles are only to counter potential threats by North Korea.


Prelims Link:

  1. What is THAAD?
  2. US military bases worldwide.
  3. Geographical locations of China and Korean Peninsula.
  4. Sea and oceans surrounding China.

Mains Link:

How THAAD defence system seeks to undermine China’s dominance in the region?

Sources: Indian Express.