SEOUL, Feb. 12 (Korea Bizwire) - Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed “serious concern” over a decision by South Korea to begin formal talks with the United States to adopt an advanced U.S. missile defense system, according to China’s foreign ministry on Friday.
Wang conveyed the concern to South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se during their meeting in Munich on the sidelines of international talks on Syria on Thursday, the Chinese ministry said in a statement.
“Minister Wang Yi expresses serious concern,” the statement said.
Wang also told Yun that the possible deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in South Korea is “not conducive to taking the proper response to the current situation and is not conducive to maintaining peace and stability in the region.”
China has long voiced opposition to the possible deployment of the THAAD battery in South Korea, claiming that it could also target China.
Wang said the THAAD battery in South Korea would “significantly undermine the strategic security interest of China.”
Earlier this week, South Korea decided to begin talks with the U.S. about the deployment of the THAAD battery after North Korea defiantly launch a long-range rocket following its fourth nuclear test last month.
With North Korea continuing to develop its nuclear and missile arsenals, analysts in Seoul say South Korea has no choice but to adopt the THAAD battery, which would be deployed at a U.S. base in South Korea, home to about 28,500 American troops.
U.N. Security Council members remain divided over how to punish North Korea for its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6, with China, one of five veto-wielding council members, reluctant to put crippling sanctions on North Korea.
During the meeting with Yun, Wang repeated China’s lukewarm stance about imposing harsher penalties against North Korea.
“Sanctions are not an end in themselves,” Wang told Yun, according to the statement.
China is North Korea’s diplomatic and economic lifeline, but analysts say China’s leadership is reluctant to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea because a sudden collapse of the regime could spark a refugee crisis at its border and lead to a pro-U.S., democratic Korea on its doorstep.
China’s U.N. ambassador, Liu Jieyi, also made it clear that Beijing’s priority is not imposing tougher sanctions against North Korea.
Liu told a U.N. meeting on Thursday that discussions about new sanctions against North Korea’s nuclear test and rocket launch should be dealt with “in an objective, fair and neutral manner,” according to a separate statement by the Chinese foreign ministry.