US intelligence: "Pressure on the North through economic sanctions and diplomacy". Admiral Harry Harris: "Make Kim Jong-un reason." US troops in South Korea start deploying the controversial anti-missile system. Clashes between residents and police: 10 injured. Beijing's anger and economic retaliation on the South.
Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Trump administration yesterday told Congress the Presidnet intends to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. The extraordinary briefing at the White House served to tone down American military action in response to Pyongyang's nuclear programs.
After weeks of military threats, the joint statement by US intelligence chiefs stated that Trump's approach "is to put pressure on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear, missile and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions And pursuing diplomatic measures with our allies and regional partners. " The statement does not mention specific military options, although it has reiterated that the United States is ready to defend itself and its allies.
Admiral Harry Harris, head of the Pacific Command, said yesterday that the US wants to bring the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “to his senses”. Harris welcomed the recent Beijing efforts to try to break the tensions between Pyongyang and Washington and suggested that the non-military solution remains the preferred goal.
A few hours before this, US troops in South Korea began deploying a controversial Thaad anti-missile system, which has enraged China. Washington and Seoul say its installation, agreed last year, is intended to protect itself from North-Pacific missile threats. Thaad (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) is designed to intercept and destroy medium and long range ballistic missiles and has a powerful radar. Beijing, which fears that this also serves to spy on China, argues that it undermines the balance of regional security.
The deployment of some parts of the system took place yesterday, while across the border in North Korea the nation’s largest military exercise took place, organized on the anniversary of the foundation of its army. Yesterday morning, Southern TV shows showed several trucks transporting some of Thaad's components to a golf course in Seongju County Southern. Hundreds of residents, worried about the potential environmental impact of the antimissile system, vented their anger. Activists reported that there have been clashes with the police that have caused more than 10 injured.
The apparent rush of the United States to deploy Thaad is due to both Pyongyang’s threats and the uncertainty of the May 9th presidential election in Seoul. Several candidates have voiced their opposition to Thaad. Washington is pushing for some of them, including the Democratic Party's favorite Moon Jae-in. "This move has closed up any space for political consideration by the next government and is very improper," said Park Kwang-on, spokeswoman for the candidate.
Beijing condemned the move by the United States and South Korea. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Geng Shuang said the deployment of Thaad " THAAD deployment “severely undermines China’s strategic security interests”. “It helps in no way to achieve the denuclearisation of the peninsula and regional peace and stability,” he said, adding China would “take necessary measures to safeguard its own interests”.
Beijing has imposed a number of economic measures in retaliation against the South, including the ban on group travel. The Lotte retail group, which previously owned the golf course on which Thaad was installed, was targeted and 85 of its 99 stores in China were closed. Hyundai Motor, South Korea's largest carmaker, said yesterday that Chinese sales fell 44% just last month.
The Catholic Church has long since declared its opposition to Thaad. Bishops have repeatedly expressed concern that the peninsula may become "the center of a new Cold War" if the Seoul government, in collaboration with the United States, will carry forward the project. They call on the South to stop the missile system and Pyongyang to desist in nuclear enrichment projects. Bishops also point out that "competition" in military escalation "brings great dangers to humanity," and creates "economic suffering among the poor."