August 02, 2017 12:08
The government is toning down celebrations of the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations with China at the end of this month as the spat over the deployment of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery here has soured ties.
A government official here said, "China continues to repeat its demand for us to withdraw the THAAD even after North Korea conducted a second test launch of its Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile. There's been a cold response no matter what Seoul says, so this year's event can't be the same as in previous years."
The Chinese Embassy in Seoul has invited officials from Beijing to a reception marking the anniversary, but it has not so far told Seoul who will attend. China continues an unofficial boycott of South Korean goods and services that has seen tourist numbers from the world's most populous country dwindle and drastically reduced South Korean exports.
Since formal diplomatic ties were established on Aug. 24, 1992, South Korea and China have held celebrations marking the fifth, 10th, 15th, and 20th anniversaries.
An event in August 2012 hosted by the South Korean Embassy in Beijing was attended by then-Chinese vice president Xi Jinping, who was tapped to become the country's next leader, and the venue was changed from a hotel to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Other high-ranking officials, including then foreign minister Yang Jiechi and Wang Jiarui, head of the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party, also attended.
But relations have chilled even more since South Korea last week announced that it is ready to set up four more THAAD launchers after the North's latest missile test. China is expected to send only low-ranking officials to the reception in Beijing this year.
Seoul too has no plans to send anyone very senior to the Chinese Embassy reception. A government source said, "At one point, we thought about holding a bilateral summit to mark the 25th anniversary, but under present circumstances, a visit to China by President Moon Jae-in won't be possible until China's Party Congress" in late October.
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