U.S. Republican Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping for “willful hypocrisy” on Thursday for ratcheting up its “economic retaliation” against South Korea for the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery.
In a statement on “Chinese bullying of South Korea,” McCain attacked Xi for delivering a “hollow lecture” on the importance of free trade, referring to Xi’s speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Tuesday.
“The communist leader even invoked Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, an allusion that can only be explained by either a supreme lack of self-awareness or willful hypocrisy,” McCain said in a written statement.
Xi vowed to “advance the building of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific”, arguing that “Development is of the people, by the people and for the people.”
McCain argued China “is escalating its campaign of economic retaliation” against THAAD deployment.
“China has cut off charter flights from South Korea, banned imports of South Korean cosmetics and other products, outlawed South Korean music, and threatened South Korean companies.”
“China has done all of this to stop the deployment of a missile defense system, which is only necessary because China has aided and abetted North Korea for decades.”
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) January 19, 2017
South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) said on January 4 that the Chinese government had disapproved applications by South Korean airlines including Asiana Airlines, Jeju Air and Jin Air, an affiliate of national flag carrier Korean Air Lines, to increase charter flights between the two countries.
China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) on January 3 also announced a list of 28 disqualified cosmetic products, which included 19 South Korean products.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency on Friday reported that four South Korean-produced air purifiers out of a total eight products had been disqualified by AQSIQ, followed by an embargo on bidets manufactured in the South.
“Actions speak louder than words,” McCain said.
“If China believes in free trade and has genuine concerns about the deployment of THAAD in South Korea, it should cease its attempts to undermine South Korea’s sovereign ability to defend itself and use its considerable influence to pressure North Korea to stop its destabilizing behavior.”
In response to China’s trade reprisals, South Korea’s Ministry of Strategy and Finance (MOSF) announced on Friday it would establish subcommittees, organized by industrial sector, to determine its response.
But both South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and MOSF have struck a cautious tone on China’s trade embargo.
Asked whether the government would make a formal complaint about China’s import ban, MOFA said on Thursday it “kept close tabs” on “various restrictive measures” and consider “multifaceted measures at the government level” without providing further details.
“Our government believes that a specific issue should not affect the development and the whole situation of bilateral relations,” Cho June-hyuck, an MOFA spokesperson, told reporters during a regular news briefing.
“[We] especially think we should continue and improve economic, cultural and personal exchange and cooperation which are the foundation of bilateral ties,” Cho said. “And we are in in the process of continuing consultation with Chinese counterpart as maintaining the position.”
Cho’s comments came in response to South Korean Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho’s claim that the South Korean government “can’t make a hasty generalization.”
Amid Chinese moves against South Korean businesses, the Lotte Group is known to have agreed to exchange a Lotte golf course, intended to be the site for the THAAD system, with military-owned land in Namyangju of Gyeonggi Province, multiple South Korean media outlets reported on Friday.
The new deployment site for the THAAD system was finalized in September as the Lotte Skyhill Seongju Country Club, a golf course in Gyeongsangbuk-do Province.
“[We] will proceed with the work with an aim to hold a board meeting in February,” Yonhap News Agency reported an anonymous senior official at Lotte Group as having said.
The Lotte Group, contacted by NK News, declined to comment.
Featured Image: United States Department of State
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