The South Korean Defence Ministry has stated that it does not intend to deploy American intermediate-range missiles on its territory following a collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the US and Russia.
“We have also not internally reviewed the issue and have no plan to do so”, Ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo told a Seoul news briefing on Tuesday.
The statement comes as the Chinese Foreign Ministry warned earlier in the day that it would retaliate against the US continuing its plans to deploy its ground-based intermediate-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region.
“China will not stand idly by and will be forced to take countermeasures should the US deploy intermediate-range ground-based missiles in this part of the world,” spokesman Fu Cong underscored.
He urged China’s immediate neighbours “to exercise prudence and not to allow” the deployment of such missiles on their territory.
“That would not serve the national security interest of these countries,” Fu said, referring to South Korea, Japan and Australia.
Touching upon Washington’s recent exit from the INF Treaty, Fu claimed that the White House referring to any Russian violations was pure pretext” and that “the real purpose of the US withdrawal […] is to free its hand and to develop missile capabilities”.
Earlier, Australia's Defence Minister Linda Reynolds ruled out the possibility that her country would provide a base for US mid-range missiles.
The remarks followed last week’s statement by US Defence Secretary Mark Esper that Washington may deploy its ground-based intermediate missiles “sooner rather than later” in the Asia-Pacific region after Washington’s withdrawal.
“I would prefer months […]. But these things tend to take longer than you expect,” Esper told reporters on Saturday in the run-up to his tour of Asia.
INF Treaty ‘Terminated at the Initiative of the American Side’
On 2 August, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the INF Treaty was “terminated at the initiative of the American side”. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in turn, confirmed Washington’s exit from the accord and claimed that Russia “bears sole responsibility” for the treaty’s collapse.
Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations that its development of the 9M729 missile violates the INF Treaty, pointing out that the US missile defence systems deployed in Europe can be re-purposed for offensive capabilities and therefore are themselves run counter to the accord.
After the US administration stated last December that it would suspend its adherence to the treaty, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow was also suspending the pact and stressed that the US needed to show readiness for an equal and constructive dialogue with Russia.
The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev and then-US President Ronald Reagan. The two agreed to destroy all cruise or ground-launched ballistic missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometres (310 and 3,400 miles, respectively).