The first Pentagon chief under Trump administration on Friday reaffirmed the agreement to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea during his talks in Seoul with his counterpart, Defense Minister Han Min-koo.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived here Thursday, when he met with Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn who is serving as acting South Korean president following the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye as well as Kim Kwan-jin, top presidential security advisor.
During the meetings, Mattis said the Trump administration places a priority on the U.S.-South Korean alliance and that no other nation needs to be worried about THAAD except the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Meeting with Minister Han, the Pentagon chief defended the THAAD deployment which he described as defensive in nature because it only aims to protect South Korean people and U.S. forces stationed here from DPRK threats.
However, nobody would naively believe it as the THAAD installation implies South Korea becomes part of the U.S. missile defense networking in Northeast Asia involving the United States and its two allies, the other being Japan.
The MD networking will foster arms race given the relationship between ballistic missiles and anti-missile systems that can be likened to a fight between spears and shields.
Such fight would never come to an end, with more shields demanding more spears on the other side of the two. The U.S. missile shield could bring more nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles to the region.
The same logic resulted in the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty that was inked in 1972 between the Soviet Union and the U.S., which later repealed it unilaterally. Under the treaty, the two superpowers had agreed to prevent the development of missile defense systems for fear of a surge in nuclear missiles.
The Park Geun-hye administration did not explain to South Korean people about the offensive nature of THAAD in the region, only repeatedly impressing upon conservative voters the importance of the missile shield to protect against the DPRKs nuclear-capable missiles.
In front of the South Korean defense ministry headquarters where Mattis and Han held talks, elderly conservative South Koreans welcomed the Pentagon chiefs visit, waving the Stars and Stripes along with their national flag.
Some of local media read too much into Mattis trip to South Korea before Japan. It was the Pentagon chiefs first overseas tour and the first ever by any of secretaries of the new U.S. cabinet.
South Koreas excessive dependence on the U.S. for its own defense created a kind of mythology, especially in the conservative bloc, that the country cannot defend itself. The Park government refused to retrieve its own wartime operational control of South Korean troops from Washington amid lack of confidence in its own military.
Independent diplomatic and defense politics have passed away in South Korea. The impeached president said on Thursday that THAAD must be deployed as it is very important in the South Korea-U.S. alliance.
Following Mattis visit to South Korea, conservative politicians here are expected to exploit the fake mythology by stressing the importance of military alliance with the U.S. and demonizing the DPRK.
Pro-American and anti-DPRK propaganda tended to grant election victories to conservative politicians, who may desperately require it now that support for the conservative bloc fell with the presidential scandal.
Such propaganda would not work this time around, considering that major presidential hopefuls in the opposition camp sweep recent presidential surveys. They call for the cancellation or the delay of a final decision to the next government.
Progressive politicians here have demanded examining whether the U.S. missile shield would work in South Korea and collecting the public and parliamentary consensus through open discussions.
The THAAD is designed to shoot down incoming missiles at an altitude of 40-150 km, but most of DPRK missiles fly at an altitude of less than 40 km.
THAAD placed in southeast South Korea is incapable of intercepting missies targeting Seoul and its surrounding metropolitan areas, which have around half of the countrys total 50 million populations.
The contentious decision drew sharp criticism and strong objection from China and Russia as its X-band radar can peer deep into territories of the two countries, breaking strategic balance and bolstering arms race.
It has also caused opposition from residents as the radar emits super microwaves detrimental to environment and human body.