U.S. Army chief visits China to assure Beijing on THAAD

BEIJING, Aug. 17 (UPI) — The U.S. military launched a charm offensive aiming straight for the heart of China’s People’s Liberation Army on Wednesday.

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley met with his Chinese counterpart Gen. Li Zuocheng to assure the Chinese military the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile defense system in South Korea is to deter North Korea, The Wall Street Journal reported.

China has repeatedly voiced concerns about THAAD and its accompanying radar, which would be used to track North Korea developments, but is powerful enough to place parts of China under surveillance, according to Beijing.

China is still opposed to THAAD deployment and South Korean companies heavily dependent on China for trade have said they fear retaliation.

U.S. and South Korea measures to deploy the deterrent began to move quickly after North Korea successfully tested a midrange missile in June that could pose an existential threat to U.S. military bases in Guam and Japan.

But on Wednesday, Milley conveyed to Li a message of goodwill, and congratulated the Chinese commander for his recent appointment.

“On behalf of the entire American Army and my delegation, thanks so much for the warm welcome. I look forward to the visit,” Milley said.

The U.S. commander also said that Washington is committed to respecting international law, and that he “encouraged the Chinese to do the same as a way to reduce regional tensions,” according to Voice of America.

Chinese reaction to South Korea’s joint decision has played a role in stoking public opposition to THAAD deployment.

On Wednesday, South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo visited the designated site of deployment, KBS News reported.

The tour was uneventful, unlike a previous visit by Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn in July, when angry local activists pelted the official with eggs.

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