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THAAD responsible for North Korea plutonium production, China says

By Elizabeth Shim
THAAD responsible for North Korea plutonium production, China says
South Korean civic activists staging an anti-THAAD protest outside the South Korean defense ministry in July. Chinese opposition to the deterrent has added to South Korean concerns. Photo by Yonhap News Agency

SEOUL, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- China's state tabloid recently suggested U.S.-South Korea plans for THAAD deployment are responsible for Pyongyang's decision to resume plutonium production.

Beijing, long opposed to the placement of a U.S. anti-missile defense system on the Korean peninsula, has claimed the surveillance radar that accompanies the deterrent is capable of monitoring Chinese territory.

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On Friday, the Global Times quoted Zheng Jiyong, an associate professor at the Center for Korean Studies at Fudan University.

The North Korean statement confirming plutonium production to Kyodo news agency is "connected to the decision to deploy THAAD in South Korea," Zheng said.

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North Korea is using the conflict between Seoul and Beijing as an opportunity to reaffirm its status as a nuclear power state, he added.

In the article, the Global Times stated the North's plutonium production is adding to the complexity that surrounds the Korean peninsula while tying the issue to THAAD.

"The United States and South Korea must be held responsible if THAAD deployment leads to the reduced effect of United Nations sanctions," the Chinese newspaper statement read.

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The warnings were mixed in with comments from Lu Chao, a researcher with the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, who said the Chinese position on Korean denuclearization has not changed.

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"China strongly opposes North Korea carrying out additional nuclear tests," Lu said.

The Chinese media statement comes days after the U.S. Army Chief of Staff met with his Chinese counterpart to assure the Chinese military that THAAD is for the purposes of deterring North Korea, and not for surveillance.

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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.

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