Members of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy Underwater Dive Team examine an X-ray image of a possible mine in Jinhae, ROK, March 6, 2017, as part of exercise Foal Eagle 2017.

Photo: Lt. Joshua Kelsey | US Navy

Members of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy Underwater Dive Team examine an X-ray image of a possible mine in Jinhae, ROK, March 6, 2017, as part of exercise Foal Eagle 2017.

In early March, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told reporters that, “Our position on THAAD is very clear. We are firmly opposed to the deployment of THAAD” in South Korea. “This position is very firm.”

U.S. officials insist the system has nothing to do with China and point out that it is not an offensive weapon.

“THAAD is a purely defensive system designed to counter short- and medium-range regional ballistic missiles. It will not undermine China’s or Russia’s strategic deterrent,” said U.S. Navy Commander Gary Ross.

Experts on the region, including former U.S. Ambassador Thomas Hubbard, and Richard Weitz, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Political-Military Analysis, told CNBC that a warming trend between South Korea and China was put to an end by the THAAD issue. China is South Korea’s largest trading partner.

“China has already engaged in one of its most assertive influence campaigns in recent history to prevent the THAAD deployment, encompassing threatening leadership speeches, alarming media commentary, and most recently coercive economic pressure that has included government-sanctioned trade boycotts,” Weitz said.

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