At a joint press conference with Pence on Monday, April 17, Mr Hwang said, “We have agreed to further strengthen the readiness posture of [the] ROK-US alliance that matches the threats posed by North Korea through a swift deployment of THAAD.”
Pence also warned North Korea that the “era of strategic patience is over,” repeating the phrase of his boss [Trump] that “all options are available on the table.”
The soon to be activated THAAD system is said to have a range of 200km, and is capable of destroying incoming warheads by intercepting them mid-flight. The system has previously been installed by the United States in Guam and Hawaii.
Despite Trump’s public rant about using military force against North Korea, he has been secretly counting on China to persuade Pyongyang to back down on its nuclear program. Recently, when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, it is said North Korea was high on the agenda. Mr Xi promised to help avert any potential military conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
However, the latest announcement of the activation of THAAD would likely anger the Chinese, making it highly probable they’ll withdraw from any negotiations with Pyongyang, making room for the United States to deal with its North Korean troubles.
Immediately after President Hwang announced the activation of THAAD, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Geng Shuang, quickly replied via news conference that China was “firmly opposed” to the deployment, and would “resolutely take measures to defend our own security interests.”
China believes THAAD is a threat to its claims in the South China Sea, which it views as its territorial possession. Since the deployment of THAAD to South Korea, China has been tough on Seoul.
China launched economic pressures against South Korea earlier this year, aiming to deter them from installing the weapon. The world’s most populous country called on its citizens to boycott all things from South Korea.
China canceled a multibillion dollar real estate project with the South Korean multinational retail conglomerate Lotte, because the company had given up its land for the installation of THAAD.
South Korean pop stars who were due to perform in China in April were denied visas. China has also removed South Korean television dramas and broadcasts, and has ordered all online travel agencies to stop selling South Korea-related tour packages.
This is taking a heavy toll on South Korean companies doing business in China. China was planning further economic pressure before this announcement that THAAD would be activated soon.
Initial estimates suggest the Chinese economic pressure could cost the South Korean economy over $261 billion this year alone. Now that South Korea is going to activate THAAD earlier than anticipated, expect nothing more than further Chinese economic sanctions against the country in the days ahead.