Asia Minute: South Korea’s Business Diplomacy with China

Dec 14, 2017

South Korean President Moon Jae-in
Credit Republic of Korea / Flickr

This week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States would be open to direct talks with North Korea. The White House has played down the prospects for any immediate discussions, but regional diplomacy is on the agenda for another event this week involving two key players. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is in China this week. His first visit to the country since taking office in May.

His meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping is the third in the past five months, but South Korean officials have spent several days playing down expectations for dramatic developments.

There will be no joint news conference—not even a joint statement after the meeting.

The two countries are celebrating, or at least marking, 25 years of diplomatic relations. But South Korea’s deployment of the U.S. missile defense system known as THAAD has sparked a chill in relations.

China says the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense is a threat because it allows users to extend the reach of radar into Chinese territory. After THAAD’s deployment, the Beijing government retaliated against South Korean commercial interests.

Although the tone has become less combative over the past six weeks or so, South Korea’s business community is anxious for further improvements.

That’s why some 260 executives are traveling with South Korea’s president.

The Joong Ang Daily says it’s the largest business contingent to ever accompany a traveling South Korean president.

The attention is understandable: China is South Korea’s biggest market—last year taking 25 percent of all South Korean exports.

That’s nearly twice as much as South Korea’s second leading export market: the United States.