SEOUL, March 7 (Korea Bizwire) – The South Korean government and ruling party agreed Tuesday to “actively” consider filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over China’s escalating economic retaliation against the planned deployment of a U.S. missile defense system to the peninsula.
The move came after the Chinese authorities reportedly directed local travel agencies this week to stop selling tour packages to Chinese nationals wanting to visit South Korea — the latest in a recent series of apparent retaliatory actions against South Korea.
“With regard to the issue of filing a complaint with the WTO, (the government and the party) agreed to actively weigh the option,” Lee Hyun-jae, the policy chief of the Liberty Korea Party, told reporters after the government-party policy consultation meeting.
“(We) also agreed to strengthen government efforts to minimize the damage on local industries,” he added.
Beijing has recently taken a series of apparently retaliatory steps against South Korean businesses trading with or operating in China. It has opposed the plan to station a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery on the peninsula, arguing the deployment would undermine its security interests.
Lee also said that the government will keep a close watch on China’s movements against the deployment plan through closer interagency cooperation, and that the country will explore ways to reduce local tourism businesses’ heavy reliance on Chinese tourists and attract more travelers from Russia, India, Vietnam and other countries.
He, in addition, pointed to the need for China to make more efforts to curb the North’s nuclear development.
“China, for its part, needs to make efforts to restrict Pyongyang’s nuclear program,” he said. “It is needed that we, through diplomacy, stress that there is no need for THAAD if Pyongyang ceases to develop its nukes.”
The policy chief added that Seoul will also make diplomatic efforts to forge a “constructive future” of the bilateral relationship with Beijing.