Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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South Korea Tells China To Keep Off Its Defense Policy

Kim Min-Seok

(Photo : REUTERS/Ahn Young-joon/Pool) South Korean Defense Ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok speaks on the outcome of a government investigation into three unmanned drones, recently found near the inter-Korean border areas, during a news conference at the ministry in Seoul, May 8, 2014.

South Korea told China to avoid meddling in its defense policy, specifically on the decision on whether or not to allow the United States to deploy its missile defense system in the Asian country.

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok released a statement explaining how a neighboring country can give its own opinion on the missile deployment. However, trying to influence its security measures is another story.

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"A neighboring country can have is own opinion on the possible deployment of the Thaad system here by the United States forces in South Korea, but it should not try to influence our security policy," said Kim.

The South Korean spokesman is referring to the American missile defense system known as the "Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense" or Thaad, which the U.S. wants to install on the Korean soil.

The United States says North Korea has been developing its ballistic missile technology, and the missile defense system is a needed deterrent against North Korea. But Beijing is putting pressure on Seoul to reject the American proposal, saying that the real target of the defense system is not North Korea, but China.

Kim's statement is a rare public retort on China, after Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao on Monday said, he had a "very candid and free dialogue" with South Korean officials about the issue.

What irked South Korea is when Liu said, "We hope that China's concerns and worries will be respected."

South Korea has taken it to mean that China is using its economic ties with South Korea to force it to shun Washington's suggestion.

South Korea considers the United States as its most important ally. Since the Korean War, U.S. troops have kept 28,500 troops in South Korea.

However, South Korea has to perform a balancing act with the United States and China, because South Korea's economic dependence on Beijing is also increasing. China is South Korea's leading export market.

This week, South Korea was visited by diplomats from both China and the United States, bearing opposing messages to the missile defense system.

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel, who visited South Korea, said, it is up to China to determine "what measures to take in its own alliance defense and when."

At the same time, Russel said the U.S. has a "responsibility to consider systems" that will protect the Americans and their allies from North Korean missile threats.

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