US Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley is in China to hold meetings with top Chinese commanders, as tensions run high between the two countries over Washington’s deployment of missile systems to South Korea.
Milley arrived in Beijing on Tuesday and was slated to “meet with the senior leadership of the People's Liberation Army to discuss a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues and identify ways to deepen cooperation in areas of mutual interest, while also constructively managing differences,” the army said in a statement.
One of those differences stems from a decision by South Korea to host America’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile systems.
Last month, the United States and South Korea said they had made a final decision to deploy the missile system in a base south of Seoul, claiming it will only be used to defend the South against what they called North Korea’s aggression.
China and Russia say the system would threaten security, stability, and peace on the Korean Peninsula. Russian and Chinese officials also say that the move would put their military assets within the range of US radars.
In late July, China’s Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said his country did not favor the THAAD deployment and Beijing will consider necessary measures to safeguard the national and regional security.
“We have made our stance of strong discontent and firm opposition quite clear …. We will closely follow related actions” of Washington and Seoul, Yang said.
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, however, has defended the decision by calling it “an act of self-defense.”
The decision to have the system deployed has been met with opposition both in South Korea as well as outside the country.
The announcement of the system deployment has also angered North Korea, which has threatened to take “physical action” in response to the decision.
This is Milley’s third visit to China and marks the beginning of his Asia-Pacific tour which also includes stops in Japan and the Republic of Korea.