On October 31, 2017, China and South Korea ended their year-long diplomatic dispute over a missile defense system deployed by the United States in South Korea.
Gone into operation this May, the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) unit can intercept medium-range intermediate ballistic missile by tracking and destroying its target outside Earth’s atmosphere; it is South Korea’s most advanced missile defense system up to date. Its deployment was intended to contain North Korea’s growing nuclear missile program and its aggression towards Western nations. However, the Chinese government viewed it as a threat to Chinese supremacy in Asia and demanded its withdrawal on multiple occasions. In the months following the THAAD’s deployment, China, South Korea’s number one trading partner, unofficially boycotted South Korean products– from its goods to entertainers. As a result, South Korea’s economy suffered gravely.
In conjunction to the recent corruption scandal associated with the previous President, South Korea did not reply to China’s request for withdrawal formally. The issue was not resolved until the newly elected President, Moon Jae-in, took the matter to his hands.
Due to North Korea’s increasing aggression towards the U.S on topics of nuclear weapon recently, China voiced its concern over the potential of building a U.S missile defense (MD) system and deploying another THAAD unit on South Korean soil. “China again,” said in a foreign ministry statement from South Korea, “proclaimed its opposition to the THAAD system deployed in South Korea, for the sake of its national security maintenance”. It was not until when the South Korean Foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha assured the Chinese that “South Korea recognized China’s concerns related to the THAAD issue and made it clear that the deployment is not intended for a third country and does not impair China’s strategic, security interests” that the Chinese government agreed to negotiate and end the dispute.
Though the exact terms have not yet been agreed upon, it is expected that the existing THAAD missile defense system will remain in South Korea while no more U.S based defense system will be added. In a report, both of the government stated that they recognize the “great importance of the relationship between the two neighbors,” and that all previous commerce and exchange will resume. Fulfilling its promise, the Chinese government has re-allowed the distribution of Korean entertainment and TV shows in China this passed weekend.