(ATTN: ADDS more comment, background in paras 5, last 5 paras)
By Chang Jae-soon and Shim In-sung
WASHINGTON, March 2 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. State Department expressed concern Thursday about a series of retaliatory measures China has been taking against South Korean businesses over Seoul's decision to host the U.S. THAAD missile defense system, calling the reaction "unreasonable and inappropriate."
"We are concerned and closely monitoring reports that China has taken actions against South Korean private sector entities for the U.S.-ROK (South Korea) decision to deploy THAAD in the ROK," a State Department spokesperson told Yonhap News Agency on background.
"As THAAD is a prudent and limited self-defense measure designed to respond to a clear, reckless and unlawful North Korean military threat, criticism or pressure on the ROK to abandon its self-defense would be unreasonable and inappropriate," the official said.
The spokesperson also said that the U.S. stands by its "ironclad commitment" to the defense of allies, and will "continue to develop a comprehensive set of alliance capabilities to counter the growing North Korean ballistic missile threat."
Asked if the U.S. has any plans to talk to China about the issue, the official said, "We remain in contact with the Chinese at the highest levels."
It was the first time that the U.S. has officially denounced China's reprisal measures against THAAD's deployment. That shows the administration of President Donald Trump has been taking a tougher stance on Beijing than the previous Barack Obama administration.
South Korea and the U.S. decided last year to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in the South to defend better against the North as the communist nation stepped up development of ballistic missiles of all ranges.
China has strongly called for scrapping the decision, seeing THAAD, especially its powerful "X-band" radar, as a threat to its nuclear deterrent and other security interests, despite repeated assurances from Washington that the system is designed only to defend against the North.
Beijing has taken a series of economic measures in apparent retaliation for the decision, such as import bans on a number of South Korean products, tax and other inspections against Korean businesses and tightening of regulations on Korean cultural products and tourism.
Trump has taken a hardline stance on China, arguing that Beijing has engaged in unfair trade and currency practices hurting American businesses while refusing to help the U.S. with the problem of North Korea even though it has great leverage over Pyongyang as its main energy and food provider.
Trump has long said North Korea is China's problem to fix.
He had even raised questions about why the U.S. should adhere to the "one-China" policy of diplomatically recognizing only Beijing, not Taiwan, when China is not helping the U.S. with the North Korea problem, though he later promised to respect the policy.
In an interview with Reuters last week, Trump said that China can solve the problem "very easily if they want to." He welcomed Beijing's recent decision to suspend coal imports from North Korea, but said China should put more pressure on Pyongyang.
Earlier this week, Trump was also quoted as telling visiting Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, "You gotta work on North Korea."
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