Chinese state media is publicizing U.S. President Donald Trump’s remarks on THAAD and South Korea after he said Seoul should pay as much as $1 billion for the missile defense system that could deter attacks against U.S. military bases in the region.
The flurry of media reports are being issued at a time when Beijing’s defense ministry said it is developing new weapons technology to evade the powerful THAAD radar.
State tabloid Global Times reported the Trump remarks as breaking news, as did other state-owned media outlets.
China has long opposed the deployment of U.S. missile defense because the government fears the X-band radar could be used for surveillance purposes and Beijing fears expanding U.S. influence.
According to Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert who once worked with the People’s Liberation Army’s rocket force, Chinese troops have been conducting THAAD counterattack exercises in simulation.
On Thursday, Beijing’s defense ministry had warned it is planning a counter-THAAD exercise with “new weapons.”
Song said the military could soon conduct countermeasure drills involving cruise and surface-to-ground missiles in order to preemptively remove THAAD missiles that could threaten China, the Global Times reported.
The remarks from Trump come at a critical time in South Korean politics.
The country is to elect a new president on May 9, and a spokesman for progressive presidential front-runner Moon Jae-in said the issue of THAAD should be handled by the next administration, although deployment has already taken place.
The conservative Liberty Korea party criticized the Trump remarks, saying the statement reflects U.S. concerns about the possibility of a left-of-center government in Seoul, rather than a lack of confidence in the U.S.-Korea alliance.
There is speculation in Korea about whether the remarks are a precursor to future negotiations for the military alliance, as well as with regard to a renegotiation of the KORUS FTA bilateral trade deal, which Trump also criticized on Thursday.
South Korean newspaper Segye Ilbo reported the $1 billion amount is greater than the $850 million Seoul will contribute to total burden sharing for U.S. troops in 2017.
By Elizabeth Shim