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S. Korea mulls over resolving trade friction from THAAD at WTO: source

All News 12:23 January 17, 2017

SEOUL, Jan. 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is exploring the "possibility" of resolving the ongoing trade and economic feud with China over Seoul and Washington's joint decision to deploy an advanced missile defense system through the World Trade Organization (WTO), a government source said Tuesday.

In July, South Korea and the U.S. announced a plan to station the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on the Korean Peninsula within this year to counter the growing threats from North Korea. China has voiced strong opposition, arguing that it could hurt its strategic security interests.

Though China denies any official involvement, Beijing has taken what many suspect as thinly veiled retaliatory steps against South Korea in diverse areas in an apparent move to pressure the Seoul government to give up the THAAD deployment.

In the face of growing complaints from business circles, South Korea has been preparing countermeasures in response to China's retaliatory steps.

"Referring this issue to the WTO is among those countermeasures being currently discussed," a high-ranking government source told Yonhap News Agency on the condition of anonymity.

"In particular, we are exploring the possibility of bringing China's recent decision on South Korea-made batteries to the global organization. We are looking into relevant international law to see if it would be possible to take that action," he added.

The official pointed to Beijing's recent decision not to provide state subsidies to cars equipped with Korea-made batteries. This move comes alongside restrictions China has been placing on South Korean goods and cultural products.

Complaints are also growing among South Korean firms operating in China as they are faced with what they see as China's rigorous enforcement of regulations on their business. Many suspect it has something to do with its retaliation against THAAD.

Experts said that there seems to be "few options" that the government could choose from in response to China's stepped-up pressure.

They noted that using such global organizations as the WTO may not be feasible given the lack of clear evidence that the Chinese government has been involved. And even if headway is made in raising complaints, experts are casting doubts over how effective countermeasures may be.

On Monday, the government officially said that it will seek both "bilateral" and "multilateral" approaches to resolving the ongoing friction with China over the planned THAAD deployment.

A commerce ministry official, on the other hand, denied the possibility of taking the issue to the WTO any time soon, saying that it might be "one or two steps" ahead of what the government could be preparing to do. He didn't elaborate further.


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