Recent tensions have escalated between China, the Korean peninsula and the United States over the ongoing implementation of the U.S. missile defense system THAAD in South Korea.
The United States claims its decision to move THAAD into South Korea is to defend against the growing threat of the North Korean missile program. According to the BBC, the program has been focusing on developing long-range missiles that may have the ability to reach the United States.
China has held strong opposition to the U.S. decision to move the system into South Korea since its inception. The South Korean television network SBS reported the Beijing foreign ministry spokesman claimed the missile defense system’s radar would compromise Chinese national security and the “regional strategic balance,” of the Korean peninsula. Reportedly, the Chinese opposition corresponds with a drop in economic relations between the South Korea and China, though China has not confirmed any connection between the drop and its opposition of THAAD.
Some Chinese have begun boycotts of South Korean products and protests in response to the government’s decision to approve THAAD. The boycotts are centered around the South Korean conglomerate Lotte, which recently provided one of its golf courses to the South Korean government for the THAAD deployment.
The opposition to THAAD is not exclusively Chinese though. The missile system is also opposed by some South Koreans, who were filmed by CCTV protesting against its deployment. CNN reports the defense system, “has already proved unpopular with many South Koreans.”
Chinese and South Korean relations have exacerbated at a crucial time, with the threat of North Korea and instability on the peninsula climbing quickly.