KATELYNN BARKLEY WRITES – Since the election of Donald J. Trump as next president of the United States, the country appears divided against itself. Protesters are in an uproar over the results, closing down freeways in California and marching on Trump Tower in New York City.
The effect has been no less tumultuous on the international front, particularly in regard to U.S.-Asia relations. And one big question is what impact Trump’s election will have on the controversial deployment of the so-called THAAD missile defense system to South Korea.
THAAD is designed to counter any potential missile launches – particularly nuclear armed missiles – from North Korea. It can intercept and destroy enemy missiles inside and outside the atmosphere, and South Korea and the U.S. announced last summer a deal to deploy the shield system. That drew a quick rebuke from China, which worries it could be used for offensive purposes. (With THAAD’s deployment, South Korea and the U.S. wouldl also get a heads up about any possible Chinese ICBM launches.)
Su Hao, foreign policy expert at China Foreign Affairs University, predicts that Trump will deploy THAAD. If Trump’s campaign promises are any indicator to his armament policy, South Korea will benefit, despite China’s displeasure. Trump has already alluded to using nuclear weapons and missiles in past interviews. A Fox News reporter grilled Trump with the question, “You want to have a nuclear arms race on the Korean peninsula?” and he answered, “It’s not like, gee whiz, nobody has them.”
More evidence points toward his deployment of the THAAD missile because he frustratedly questioned why the U.S. hasn’t deployed more missiles in the past. On MSNBC’s Chris Matthews show, he asked, “Then why are we making them? Why do we make them [if we’re not going to use nuclear weapons and anti ballistics]?”
While both U.S. and Chinese governments may oppose Trump’s deployment of THAAD, China might react with more opposition. CNN writers James Griffiths and Joshua Berlinger point out that, historically, U.S. military presence in Asia causes Chinese leaders to view it as “an attempt to contain it and reduce the effectiveness of its [own] weapons.”
If we were to predict the outcome of Trump’s increased military presence, then it is evident that China might become angered, increase its defenses, and weaken its ties to the U.S. Trump states he “wants to be unpredictable” in the nuclear arms race. Unpredictable he is. But when it comes to THAAD, no one will truly know the implications of Trump’s actions until the deed is done.