Russia, China strongly oppose US plan to deploy system in SKorea, saying it will escalate military tensions
World Bulletin / News Desk
South Korea's president has laid the ground for a trip to the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia by defending the contentious deployment of an advanced United States antimissile system on South Korean soil.
In an interview with Russia's state-run news agency Rossiya Segodnya on Friday, Park Geun-hye stressed that if military threats from North Korea were eliminated, the need for the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system would "naturally" dissipate.
Russia and China have both strongly opposed the plan, arguing it would escalate military tensions in East Asia.
"There is no reason, nor practical benefit, for the THAAD system to target any third country, and the Korean government does not have any such intentions or plans," South Korean news agency Yonhap reported her as saying.
In late August, as South Korea and long term ally the United States embarked on a 12-day "Ulchi Freedom Guardian" military exercise, North Korea threatened to turn the two countries into "a heap of ashes through a Korean-style pre-emptive nuclear strike."
Pyongyang has described the exercises as an invasion rehearsal.
On Friday, Yonhap reported that during Park's summit with Putin -- expected to take place Saturday -- she is expected to seek understanding from Moscow over the deployment.
It quoted Park as saying in the interview that she would hold "heart-to-heart" talks with Russia's leader over North Korea-related issues, highlighting that Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs pose a "hefty stumbling block" to cooperation.
"Since the resolution of North Korea's nuclear and missile issues would provide significant thrust for the mutual development of our two countries and the Far East, I look forward to continuing bilateral cooperation in bringing about such changes with a long-term vision," she said.
Russia is a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council and a strong advocate of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.
During an eight-day trip that will also take in China and Laos, Park is to attend the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia's far eastern port city of Vladivostok.