China on Monday restated its open attitude toward business exchanges with South Korea after Seoul complained to the World Trade Organization (WTO) about Chinese retaliation against South Korean companies over the deployment of a US anti-missile defense system in the South.
"We have stated repeatedly that China supports normal business exchanges between China and South Korea, and yet that needs proper popular support and appropriate public opinion," Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said during a briefing on Monday.
South Korean Trade Minister Joo Hyung-hwan told parliament on Monday that "We have notified the WTO that China may be in violation of some trade agreements."
When asked what would happen next, Joo said the ministry would strengthen communications with Beijing and take action if needed. He did not give further details.
China is South Korea's largest trading partner and the dispute over the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system has resulted in a sharp decline in Chinese tourists in the South's shopping districts, Reuters reported.
Joo said the issue was raised with the WTO's Council for Trade in Services on Friday.
A South Korean trade ministry official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the complaint could not be categorized as a legal action but was rather a request for the WTO to look into whether China was upholding trade agreements fairly.
"China understands South Korea's concerns about maintaining its own security, but THAAD harms strategic balance in the region and is not conducive to stability on the Korean Peninsula," Hua said on Friday.
The spokesperson noted that THAAD may even make South Korea less safe.
Hua pointed out that the coverage of the THAAD missile defense system, especially the monitoring scope of its X-Band radar, went far beyond the defense needs of the Korean Peninsula, and could peer deep into China.
"We do not oppose necessary measures that South Korea takes to maintain its national security, but such measures cannot be pursued at the expense of China's security," Hua said.