from Asia Unbound

THAAD and Thucydides: Seeing the Forest Beyond the Trees

September 22, 2016

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Sungtae “Jacky” Park is research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Since the July 7 announcement by the U.S.-Korea alliance to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on the Korean peninsula, analysts and commentators have been discussing whether and how Beijing would retaliate against Seoul and whether the decision would lead to a dangerous arms race between the United States and China. These are important questions, but Thucydides might say that they are also missing the forest for the trees. By itself, the THAAD controversy is not a make-or-break issue in China-South Korea relations or in the U.S.-China arms race dynamics but is simply one symptom of broader trends, namely the increasingly zero-sum nature of the U.S.-China competition in Asia and the evolution in strategic military technologies.

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