South Korea’s trade minister has complained to the World Trade Organization (WTO) about China’s retaliation against South Korean companies over the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile defense system in the South.
“We have notified the WTO that China may be in violation of some trade agreements,” Trade Minister Joo Hyung-hwan told parliament in response to questions about China’s reaction to the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea.
Joo said the issue was raised with the WTO’s Council for Trade in Services on Friday after China imposed restrictions on South Korean companies in the tourism and distribution sectors.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying has however, not commented on the WTO complaint.
“We support normal business and other exchanges between China and South Korea,” Hua said. But everyone knows this needs a corresponding basis in public opinion.”
South Korea and the United States say the sole purpose of the THAAD system is to guard against missile launches from North Korea but China has been infuriated by its deployment, saying that its powerful radar could penetrate into its territory.
Beijing also says THAAD will do nothing to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula.
China is South Korea’s largest trading partner and the dispute over THAAD has resulted in a sharp decline in Chinese tourists in the South’s shopping districts.
Chinese authorities have also closed nearly two dozen retail stores of South Korea’s Lotte Group amid the diplomatic standoff.