BEIJING, Aug. 8 (Korea Bizwire) — Tensions between South Korean and China over the deployment of a THAAD anti-missile system is spilling over into the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, as reports suggest celebrations will be held separately, with the upcoming events rumored to be reduced in scale compared to years past.
According to a source close to Beijing, the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), the organizing body behind the diplomatic celebration event, has expressed its intention to host a separate event, a day before one organized by the Embassy of South Korea in China that is scheduled for August 24.
While the CPAFFC has allegedly asked South Korean diplomats to provide a congratulatory message, speculation is growing that this year’s event celebrating the diplomatic relations between the two countries will be greatly reduced in scale compared to previous occasions, both in the number of attendees and size of the event.
Reports of separate events come as something of a shock, given the fact that the Chinese government traditionally celebrates anniversaries of diplomatic relations with other countries through mutually-held events every five years, with this year’s departure from custom reflecting the political discord between the two countries in recent months. The dispute dates back to earlier this year, when South Korean conglomerate Lotte reached an agreement with the Ministry of Defense to provide land at a golf club in Seongju County for the deployment of a THAAD missile defense system.
Since then, the South Korean company has been the principal target of China’s economic retaliation, with most Lotte Mart branches in China ordered to shut down for a variety of questionable reasons.
The gravity of the decision to hold separate events becomes clearer when juxtaposed with the 20th anniversary celebration, in which the CPAFFC and the South Korean Embassy collaborated to hold a memorable event at the Great Hall of the People attended by heavy hitters including then vice-president Xi Jinping and Yang Jiechi, who was the director of the Foreign Affairs Leading Group Office at the time.
On the contrary, the lineup for the 25th anniversary celebration event hasn’t even been confirmed with the event only two weeks away.
One of the two events organized by the South Korean embassy is scheduled to be held at a hotel in downtown Beijing, a clear downgrade from the Great Hall of the People where the event was held five years ago.
“During the 20th anniversary celebration event, Korea-China relations were in a much better place, so in terms of scale and line-up, it’s hard to compare,” an official at the South Korean Embassy in China said.
“However, with more than two weeks away, there is no need to look at the situation so negatively,” the official added.
Hyunsu Yim (email@example.com)