As a result of increased North Korean nuclear weapons tests, the United States and South Korea banded together a few months ago in order to deploy THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense). However, since this decision was announced internationally, South Korea has been facing a lot of backlash from China. The official announcement came July 8, 2016, according to The Diplomat. China fears that this will integrate South Korea into the United States’ security in Asia, which will further strengthen the U.S. As a result of these fears, China has been issuing sanctions against South Korea, escalating them as South Korea and the United States have been hurrying the deployment in response to North Korea.
One of the most striking actions China has taken in retaliation, according to the same Diplomat article, is the People’s Liberation Army’s Navy underwent an exercise in the Yellow Sea in September. This did appear to be a warning to South Korea to cease the installation of THAAD, but did not deter the country.
North Korea has been increasing the pace of developing its nuclear weapons program, much to the disdain of many countries around the world. The European Union and the United States have been in discussion as to how to try and block the continuing development, and one of the proposed solutions has been to block North Korean access to international banking infrastructure, according to a CNBC article.
THAAD deployment in South Korea has been seen as an important step in the U.N.’s attempts to dissuade North Korean nuclear action, but it is also necessary for China to support the U.N. in any of their actions taken against North Korea, Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, asserts. However, the Chinese are vehemently against any THAAD installation in East Asia for the previously stated fear of the increase of power of the United States.
In order to oppose this action, the easiest path for China to take has been to issue sanctions against South Korea. According to CNBC, some of these sanctions have gone to far as to include the exclusion of any Korean pop music or any pop culture either created by a South Korean or which features a South Korean cast member. They have also been diplomatically sanctioning South Korea by both refusing to meet with South Korean officials and refusing South Korean officials access to China.
Both the United States and South Korea, however, have reason to fear further North Korean nuclear weapon development. In 2014, North Korea openly threatened to target the United States with its weapons.
As a result of being openly threatened, it would logically follow that the country would want to defend itself. North Korea and the United States have both openly acknowledged the tension between the two countries on an international stage many times before. The U.S. considers South Korea an important ally to have, especially in case of any North Korean war actions, which makes South Korea an enemy of North Korea even though they share a border. South Korea therefore has a huge target on its back due to choosing to ally itself with the United States. Its close proximity to North Korea makes it most likely the first target North Korea would choose.
However, China is staunchly against what it views as both American aggression and American attempts to colonize Eastern Asia, which it has fought with over land before. Though China, South Korea and the United States are all members of the United Nations, this does not necessarily mean they have to agree on all of each others’ actions. Only time will tell whether China will take any sanctions against North Korea as well, or simply continue to retaliate against South Korea.