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S. Korea and China move to normalize relations after THAAD standoff Updated: 2017-11-03 20:06:22 KST

After more than a year of economic retaliation and disagreement on the deployment of the U.S. missile defense system THAAD on the Korean peninsula, South Korea and China decided to put their relations back on track.
On Tuesday, a joint statement was issued in which both sides agreed to work swiftly to normalize their relations.

"We will enhance strategic communication and cooperation in all areas."

South Korea recognized China's concerns over THAAD and made it clear that the deployment was not aimed at any third country and did not harm China's strategic security interest, while China reiterated its opposition to the deployment, but also took note of South Korea's position to defend itself from North Korean threats.

"Normalization of relations is a win-win for both countries considering North Korea's threats, as well as the importance of bilateral economic and security cooperation between Seoul and Beijing."

Experts, however, acknowledged that the THAAD issue has not been fully resolved, and that Seoul and Beijing need to establish strong foundations to their relation based on communication and understanding.

"We need more strategic communication channels to enhance mutual understanding and resolve conflicts. Economic ties have grown rapidly over the last 25 years, but diplomatic ties have not. At the upcoming APEC summit, it will be important for the leaders of South Korea and China to build trust, cooperate on how to solve the North Korea issue, and forge new channels of communication."

The year-long THAAD standoff hit the hardest on South Korea's economy with losses estimated at around in 7.6 billion U.S. dollars, according to Hyundai Research Institute.

"Here in Myeongdong, a hotspot for Chinese tourists, saw its tourism drop sharply. But with the thaw in Seoul-Beijing bilateral relations, the mood among merchants here is getting more upbeat."

"Sales this year dropped more than 50% compared to the previous year. I hope sales could come back to normal levels."

Those hopes soon became reality, especially in the tourism and retail sectors that depend heavily on Chinese consumers.
Moreover, signs of improving relations were evident also in the cultural and entertainment front, with Chinese state TV airing programs on South Korea and featuring hallyu and K-pop stars.

"The lesson to draw from the THAAD economic backlash is that South Korea needs to lower its reliance on the Chinese economy, it's number one trading partner, and diversify its export products so it won't be hit so hard by China's economic retaliation."

A promising chapter has opened in Seoul-Beijing ties, but the possibility of another disagreement or friction over what either side considers as its best interest on security still lingers in the air.
So more than anything else, experts underscore the importance of building mutual understanding and communication.
Kim Hyesung, Arirang News.
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