A rift has grown in the close relationship between Korea and China over the potential deployment of advanced U.S. missile interceptors here, experts said Wednesday.
An attack by a liberal extremist on U.S. Ambassador to Korea Mark Lippert is strengthening the case for the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. China opposes its deployment on Korean soil.
A sign of the worsening relations between the two neighbors was the apparent rejection by China of a proposed visit by President Park Geun-hye’s top security official.
In January, Cheong Wa Dae announced that Korea was in negotiations with China about National Security Office chief Kim Kwan-jin’s visit to Beijing, but that has yet to happen.
“The delay in Kim’s visit to China may be linked to ongoing talks about THAAD,” said Professor Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies.
“The deployment is seen as a U.S. intention to seize hegemony in Northeast Asia by containing China using THAAD.”
Cheong Seong-chang, a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute, said that China may feel uncomfortable with the deployment.
“Although the government says it has no plan to bring THAAD to Korea, there is talk that Seoul should deploy the U.S. missile shield,” Cheong said.
However, the presidential office denied there was any link between the stalled plans for Kim’s visit to China and the ongoing THAAD discussions here.
“The visit of the National Security Office chief is not about discussing an urgent issue with China,” said presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook.
“The two countries are coordinating Kim’s visit in consideration of the convenience for both sides.”
China-Korea relations reached a fever pitch when Chinese President Xi Jinping prioritized his visit to Seoul over Pyongyang in July — the first time in decades that the South was chosen over the North for such a visit. In addition, President Park Geun-hye has met with Xi on five occasions since taking office in February 2013.
However, amid increasing calls for the THAAD deployment in Korea, Chinese leaders seem to have done an about-face…