US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley (L) introduces members of his staff to China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Gen. Li Zuocheng during a welcome ceremony at the Bayi Building in Beijing, August 16, 2016. (Reuters)
The United States has once again rebuffed China’s anger over the planned deployment of an advanced missile system in South Korea, insisting that the move is aimed at countering the growing missile threats from North Korea.
US Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley met his Chinese counterpart Li Zuocheng and other senior People’s Liberation Army leaders in Beijing on Tuesday amid strong Chinese protests over the decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) unit in the South.
General Milley insisted that THAAD was a “defensive measure to protect South Koreans and Americans from the North Korean ballistic missile threat and is not a threat in any way to China,” according to a statement by the US Army.
Tensions have been running high since last month’s announcement that the US and South Korea had made a final decision to deploy the THAAD system in a base south of Seoul.
Beijing insists the system would threaten security and stability on the Korean Peninsula and put Chinese military assets within the range of US radars.
South Korea argues that the move is purely to defend against North Korea's missile threat.
The decision has been met with angry protests in the country.
South Korean activists hold placards during a protest against the planned deployment of THAAD, near the US Embassy in Seoul on July 19, 2016. (AFP)
On Monday, residents in the rural town of Seongju rallied to denounce the planned deployment. Nearly 1,000 protesters also shaved their heads in public to show their outrage against the move.
Meanwhile, North Korea has threatened to take “physical action” in response to the missile system.
China and the US have also been at odds over the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over most of the sea, through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually, and looks unfavorably upon the continued American military presence there.
General Milley said Washington wanted to maintain open channels of communication with the Chinese military to "reduce the risk of crisis or miscalculation and candidly address differences," the statement said.