Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has taken a swipe at the deployment of a US missile system in South Korea, warning that it poses "serious risks" to the Asia-Pacific region.
“We drew attention to the serious risks posed by the deployment of elements of the American global anti-missile system in the Asia-Pacific region," Lavrov said in a joint press conference with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada in Tokyo on Monday.
He added that the issue was raised in the talks with the Japanese foreign minister.
"If this [missile deployment] is meant to counter threats coming from North Korea, then the deployment of this system and accumulating armaments in the region is a disproportionate reply," Lavrov said in an apparent reference to the deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), a missile system Washington claims is meant to deter missile threats from North Korea.
The United States said earlier in March that it had begun installing its THAAD missile system in the southeastern region of South Korea in response to the North's intensifying ballistic missile development to attack US military bases in Japan.
Washington is taking steps “to defend against North Korea's ballistic missiles, such as through the deployment of a THAAD battery to South Korea," White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, said.
The Japanese foreign minister, for his part, warned against any escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula and urged Pyongyang to exercise restraint.
"We shared the view that we will strongly urge North Korea to exercise self-restraint over further provocative actions and follow UN Security Council resolutions," Kishida said.
He added that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would visit Russia in late April to continue the discussions on efforts to finally conclude a peace treaty ending the war between the two Koreas.
South Korea and the United States say the sole purpose of the THAAD system is to guard against missile launches from North Korea. China has also been infuriated by its deployment, saying that its powerful radar could penetrate into Chinese territory.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry slammed the move on March 7 and vowed to defend its security interests.
“China will resolutely take necessary measures to defend our own security interests. All consequences entailed from this will be borne by the US and the ROK (Republic of Korea),” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said.
Beijing has slapped a series of economic sanctions on South Korea in a move it says is aimed to punish Seoul, noting that the deployment of the projectiles in the South threatens its national security. Seoul has, in return, filed a complaint over China’s move at the World Trade Organization.
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Lavrov's comments came after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson paid a visit to the region and warned that Washington’s military action against the North was an option "on the table."
Tillerson said in Seoul that the United States and South Korea would "proceed with the installation" of THAAD missile system.
Pyongyang test-fired a salvo of missiles earlier this month and officials vowed that similar measures would be adopted to counter the joint military drills between Washington and Seoul. The United Nations has imposed several rounds of crippling sanctions on North Korea over the country’s nuclear tests in recent years.