China is suspected to be taking indirect action against South Korea’s decision last year to deploy a US anti-missile system, South Korea’s finance minister said.
China worries that the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system’s powerful radar can penetrate its territory and it has objected to its deployment.
South Korea and the US say the missile system is aimed solely at countering any threat from North Korea.
It is due to be deployed this year.
“China is officially denying it, but we feel their actions are linked and that there have been indirect responses taken,” South Korean Minister of Finance Yoo Il-ho told a news conference on Thursday at the ministry’s headquarters in Sejong City, south of Seoul.
“It’s hard to ask them what they’re up to when they have been denying it officially,” he added.
Yoo did not elaborate on what he meant by “indirect action,” but China recently rejected applications by South Korean carriers to add charter flights between the two countries.
Yoo said on Sunday the government was looking into whether China’s decision to deny the airlines’ applications, which came ahead of a traditional surge in Lunar New Year holiday travel, was related to the deployment of the anti-missile system.
Chinese authorities have not responded to requests for comment on the rejection of the flight applications.
Yoo also said South Korea planned to make efforts to reduce its trade surplus with the US in response to an assertion by US president-elect Donald Trump that the US had been hurt by what he considers an unfair trade agreement with South Korea.
Another finance ministry official told reporters separately that the government could look into importing more US raw materials and machinery parts as part of the effort to reduce the surplus.
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
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