Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday said he was willing to normalise ties with South Korea following tensions over the installation of a US anti-missile system last month. At a meeting here, Xi highlighted the importance of bilateral ties to the new South Korean Special Envoy for China, Lee Hae-chan, and hoped that Beijing and Seoul can “safeguard the hard-won achievements made in the development of bilateral ties”. At the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Xi urged both sides “to consolidate the mutual political trust and properly handle divergence on the basis of mutual understanding and mutual respect”. Lee, a newly appointed special envoy for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday, and urged Seoul to eliminate any obstacles affecting bilateral ties, particularly the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) anti-missile system.
Thaad has been put into operation in the South Korean territory in case of a potential attack by North Korea, amid a recent escalation of tensions in the peninsula. China, like Russia, opposes the installation of the system as it fears its sophisticated radars can pick up information from its military bases and offer it to Washington. The installation of the Thaad has resulted in an unofficial boycott of South Korean companies operating in China, including the supermarket chain Lotte, which had provided land in South Korea for the deployment. In addition, there has also been a decline in Chinese sales of South Korean car manufacturers Hyundai and Kia, as well as other protests.