South Korea names new ambassador to China amid rift over THAAD missile deployment
Noh Young-min’s appointment comes amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula and testy relations between Beijing and Seoul
South Korea has named a former lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party as its new ambassador to China.
Noh Young-min was named top envoy to Beijing while foreign policy expert Lee Su-hoon was named ambassador to Japan.
Cho Yoon-je, an international trade expert who had previously served as South Korea’s ambassador to Britain, will become South Korea’s new envoy to the United States, the Blue House said in a statement.
Noh, the new ambassador to China, served as chief of staff for President Moon Jae-in during the 2012 presidential election, in which Moon was defeated by his predecessor Park Geun-hye.
Park has been impeached and is standing trial for corruption.
Noh’s appointment comes amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula and testy relations between Beijing and Seoul.
With geopolitical tensions rising, China has tightened the economic screws on both Koreas - on the North for firing missiles, and on the South for deploying a shield to stop them.
Last year, South Korea agreed to deploy a US missile defence system to counter threats from North Korea. China objected that the system’s radar would be capable of penetrating its territory, sparking negative popular sentiment towards Korean goods and services.
South Korea deployed two units of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system earlier this year and is expected to put in place the remaining four units in the coming weeks.
One way Beijing expressed its unhappiness with the THAAD missile shield was by imposing a ban in March of package tours of Chinese visitors to South Korea. That’s translated into 2.3 million fewer Chinese tourists in the five months through July, versus the same period last year.
Sales of Korean vehicles in China have slumped this year as consumer sentiment mirrored that of the government over the missile shield.