South Korean opposition lawmakers to visit China over THAAD

Delegation will tell Foreign Minister Wang Yi that presidential hopeful Moon Jae-in would reconsider deployment of anti-missile defence system

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 January, 2017, 2:49pm
UPDATED : Monday, 02 January, 2017, 2:49pm

Eight lawmakers from the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) will visit China later this week for talks with Chinese government officials and academics over the planned deployment of an US anti-missile system to South Korea, a major thorn in relations between Seoul and Beijing.

While staying in China for three days from Wednesday, they plan to deliver “messages” from DPK presidential hopefuls, including Moon Jae-in, on the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system.

Their itinerary includes a meeting with Foreign Minister Wang Yi, according to Representative Song Young-gil.

Other lawmakers who will visit China along with Song include reprenstatives Youn Kwan-suk, Park Chan-dae, Shin Dong-kuen, Yoo Dong-soo, Yoo Eun-hae, Park Jeung and Jung Jae-ho.

Moon, the odds-on favourite in this year’s presidential election, and other presidential hopefuls of the party have called for reconsideration of the THAAD deployment and letting the next government decide whether to scrap the decision or not.

The demand has been made after President Park Geun-hye, who strongly pushed for the deployment despite huge controversy, was impeached by the National Assembly on December 9 over a corruption and influence-peddling scandal.

South Korean leadership contender Moon Jae-in suggests THAAD deployment should be decided by the next government

Song said China had virtually taken retaliatory moves against South Korea, though Beijing officially said it was not retaliation against the THAAD decision.

“Indeed, events in China with K-pop and K-drama stars have been cancelled,” he said. “Entrepreneurs whose main trading partners are in China have also been citing their difficulties.”

The four-term lawmaker said visiting lawmakers will make efforts to ease China’s apparent ban on Korean stars as well as on bilateral exchanges and cooperation.

“We will tell Beijing that our presidential candidates including Moon are calling on the THAAD issue to be reconsidered in the next government,” he said. “Plus, we will also discuss China’s role in resolving icy relations between South and North Korea.”

In July, Seoul and Washington announced their plan to install THAAD in South Korea by 2017 with the aim of improving South Korea’s defence capabilities against Pyongyang. But Beijing has ramped up its criticism of it, repeating that THAAD would undermine regional stability and China’s security interests.

Seoul wants THAAD, but do Koreans?

After Park’s impeachment, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, now the acting head of state, said the Park government’s decision on THAAD would remain unchanged, stressing that the system should be deployed as soon as possible to enhance national security.

But DPK lawmakers disagreed, citing allegations that Park’s arrested close friend Choi Soon-sil, with no government position or security clearance, abused her decades-long ties to the President and meddled in state affairs including security and diplomatic policies.

In August, six first-term DPK lawmakers also visited China to discuss THAAD, but at the time they faced strong criticism from the government and the ruling Saenuri Party. The government then said their visit to China would only bolster Beijing’s stance over THAAD and exacerbate growing division among South Koreans.