By Matthew Reiss
Plans for a missile base on South Korea's Jeju island, 450 kilometers, from Shanghai have threatened to disturb a precarious balance of power in the East China Sea. But Washington's aspirations to use the base have been blocked by residents of the island.
The administration of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak announced commitments in 2008 and 2009 to purchase and deploy a fleet of Aegis destroyers equipped with US anti-ballistic missile and radar systems, built jointly by Hyundai and Lockheed-Martin. To date, opposition to construction of the base and a pending lawsuit have delayed preparation of a home port for the ships. But following the March 26 sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan, the government has grown less tolerant of dissent.
The Cheonan incident has also accelerated preparation of a long-term US deployment in the region, including talk that a US carrier group may arrive shortly. ABC TV reported the proposal, which the Department of Defense subsequently denied. With the decision on the Jeju naval base remaining in abeyance, however, China's
People's Liberation Army (PLA) has not announced its response.