As of March 15, no Chinese citizen will be allowed to visit South Korea on any tour group. Considering nearly half of South Korea’s visitors come from Mainland China, this Beijing invoked suspension will hurt the country’s economy just as it intends to.
The tourist suspension is part of the Chinese government’s displeasure over Seoul’s deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system earlier this week.
The U.S. missile defense and radar system is designed to counter the threat posed by China’s ally, rogue-state North Korea, and its provocative missile and nuclear weapon programs.
The first deployment of the defense system came just a day after North Korea fired four ballistic missiles that landed in the Sea of Japan, ramping up tensions in East Asia.
It was the latest in a series of confrontational acts from the rogue state.
“Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea,” U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris said in a statement, reported Reuters.
The South Koreans had already agreed to deploy the U.S. delivered missile defense system mid-way through last year.
The U.S. begins deploying an anti-missile system just a day after North Korea’s ballistic missile test. pic.twitter.com/owJUWsAkpH
— Vocativ Video (@VocativVideo) March 7, 2017
But Beijing views the U.S. anti-missile system on South Korean soil as “undermining China’s strategic security.”
Outside of the tourist bans, the Chinese government has also banned South Korean music groups from visiting China and blocked South Korean TV shows. It has likewise impinged on how mega-conglomerate Lotte does business on the mainland – i.e., more than 23 Lotte retail outlets there have been shut down.
State-run media in China also encouraged Chinese to boycott South Korean goods. Videos doing the rounds on social media show young Chinese men destroying South Korean goods in a supermarket (see below) and a school singing anti-South Korean songs.
— 博讯新闻网 (@boxun) March 10, 2017
In a Global Times op-ed one retried Chinese general even put forward the idea of conducting military strikes on the U.S. anti-missile systems, reported The New York Times.
Other anti-South Korean measures have been reported as well, and with China being South Korea’s biggest trading partner, there is room for Beijing to do more economic harm if it wishes.
Chinese cyber-attacks have also been reported against South Korean interests.
Adding to the complexity of it all, the first deployment of the missile system occurred in the same week that South Korea’s scandal-hit president, Park Geun-hye was forced from office.
— CNN International (@cnni) March 10, 2017
South Korea must have elections for a new president within 60 days, giving the opportunity for whoever next comes into power to possibly reset relations with the U.S., North Korea, and China.
Currently, the poll favorite to be the next South Korean leader is opposition Democratic Party leader Moon Jae-in, who has said the defense system should be put on hold and reviewed.
In the coming week, new U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Japan, South Korea, and China in that order.
For more on Beijing being upset about the U.S. missile defense system deployment, see this episode of China Uncensored: