Moon’s four-day visit to the Chinese capital is expected to restore tense relations between South Korea and China.
President Moon of South Korea arrived in Beijing, China on Wednesday, Nov 13, at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping. The South Korean government has stated that the objective of Moon’s visit was to normalize ties between the two nations, which have been taught since South Korea agreed on the deployment of the US’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in July 2016.
The US’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system is the most advanced missile interceptor known to date, designed to shoot down ballistic missiles as they approach their target.
South Korea originally agreed on its deployment in July 2016 as a means of defense against the North Korean nuclear threat, but China’s opposition to THAAD stems from the system’s ability to track the movements of the Chinese military.
In June of this year, President Moon agreed to suspend further deployment of the system, in an attempt to ease tensions between the two countries, but Beijing has demanded a formal promise from Seoul to completely cease the system as well promises to halt participation in the US’s missile defense network and refrain from the establishment of a trilateral military alliance with the US and Japan, conditions that were later dubbed the “three Nos” policy.
Restrictions on tourism and trade
Publicly revealing its displeasure with THAAD, Beijing has banned a sale of group tours of its citizens to South Korea and imposed boycotts on South Korean firms operating within China.
Chinese tourists make up roughly half of all visitors to South Korea, but since the ban numbers have dwindled considerably. According to Chinese travel company Ctrip, the number of Chinese tourists visiting South Korea over the National Day holiday in October fell 70 percent from numbers last year.
Last month, after South Korea’s agreement to the “three Nos” policy, China has partially resumed group tours to South Korea under certain conditions. During his visit to China, President Moon is likely expected to push for a complete lift on China’s tourism restrictions.
Also joining Moon on his trip to Beijing is a delegation of over 200 South Korean business people, who are expected to secure several trade deals between the two countries, according to South Korean media outlets.
The North Korean threat
But North Korea’s nuclear program still remains an undeniable threat to the South Korean government, despite its desire to ease tensions with China. Pyongyang’s deployment of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile last month, which the North claimed could deliver a “super-large heavy warhead” anywhere in the continental United States, revealed that North Korea’s nuclear program only seems to be advancing despite warnings and threats from countries around the world.
On his four-day trip to Beijing, President Moon will have to balance his desire to maintain a good relationship with China while still attending to the very real threat of his Northern neighbor.