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THAAD could destroy Seoul-Beijing relations: Chinese envoy

All Headlines 17:41 February 23, 2016

SEOUL, Feb. 23 (Yonhap) -- China's top envoy to Seoul warned Tuesday the deployment of an advanced U.S. anti-ballistic missile defense system in South Korea could jeopardize relations between Seoul and Beijing.

"China vehemently opposes the THAAD deployment" Amb. Qiu Guohong said in a meeting with Kim Jong-in, an interim chairman of South Korea's main opposition Minjoo Party at the National Assembly, referring to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.

The THAAD deployment "could destroy bilateral relations in an instant," he said, according to the opposition party.

His public warnings illustrated China's growing impatience over the U.S. missile defense system designed to shoot down ballistic missiles in their terminal stage using a hit-to-kill program.

Seoul and Washington says the THAAD battery is a purely defensive system designed only to counter ballistic missile threats from North Korea.

Still, China is concerned that the radar of the U.S. missile defense system could monitor military facilities in China.

Qiu said the THAAD deployment could undo progress made between South Korea and China, claiming that the THAAD deployment greatly influences China's national interests.

China is now South Korea's largest trading partner with two-way trade reaching US$290.5 billion in 2015. Millions of people travel between the two countries annually.

Still, South Korea's Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho said Monday that the THAAD deployment will have a limited impact on Seoul's trade with China.

Qiu's warning came as South Korea and the United States delayed the launch of formal talks on the THAAD deployment. Some sources said the postponement was made at the request of the U.S. side, though no clear reason was given.

The Chinese envoy said a U.N. resolution against Pyongyang would have already been adopted if it weren't for a THAAD issue.

South Korea and the U.S., however, said they expect China's cooperation in adopting what they call a "terminating" resolution on Pyongyang at the U.N. Security Council to punish the North for its recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.

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