SEOUL, April 11 (Yonhap) -- China's chief negotiator on North Korea's nuclear program called on South Korea Tuesday to halt the ongoing deployment of a U.S. missile defense system during his meetings with Seoul politicians.
In response, they united in urging Beijing to stop economic retaliation despite their differing positions on the missile shield.
Wu Dawei held a series of meetings with leading political figures, including Rep. Yoo Seong-min, the presidential candidate of the conservative Bareun Party, to discuss the dispute between the two countries over the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense or THAAD.
A number of South Korean companies have reported what many believe to be China's retaliation for the ongoing deployment.
Lotte Group, a South Korean retail giant, earlier said dozens of its department stores and grocery shops in China have been shut down, at least temporarily, by local governments for various reasons that included possible fire hazards.
The top nuclear negotiator insisted that the Chinese government has never taken or endorsed economic sanctions or retaliation against South Korean firms, also claiming what may seem to be a ban on imports or sales of South Korean products in China was in fact a voluntary boycott staged by Chinese consumers.
"Some people decided not to buy South Korean products while others decided not to travel to South Korea. But such a situation is not what we desire. We hope South Korea will carefully handle the THAAD issue, so the relationship between the two countries will move and develop in the right direction," Wu was quoted as saying while meeting with Rep. Park Jie-won, chief of the center-left People's Party.
Wu noted that Beijing was especially concerned about an advanced radar system that will be installed here as part of THAAD, and allow the U.S. to maintain a direct, real-time watch on more than half of China's territory.
Park expressed hope that the ongoing tension between Seoul and Beijing will quickly be put behind the two countries, and asked Wu to help improve their bilateral relationship by convincing China to end its economic retaliation against its friend of 25 years.
Ahn Cheol-soo, the presidential candidate of the People's Party, has said he will deploy the THAAD if elected, insisting an agreement between governments must be honored.
Rep. Sim Sang-jung of the progressive Justice Party said her party opposed the THAAD deployment, but still urged China to end its economic retaliation against South Korean firms.
"We have repeatedly said the THAAD deployment must be reviewed by the National Assembly under the next administration. But apart from such a view, I want to stress that China's decision to take economic retaliation against its friend, South Korea, was too rash," said Sim, who is also the chief and presidential candidate of the party.
Wu was also scheduled to meet with officials from the Democratic Party, the largest party here, later Tuesday.
The party's presidential candidate, Moon Jae-in, has said the ongoing THAAD deployment must be suspended until a decision by the new administration, prompting many to believe he opposes the deployment.
Nevertheless, the presidential front-runner has said such a decision has to do with the country's sovereignty, calling on China to immediately stop what he called its "unreasonable" retaliation.
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