(Recasts. Adds statement from Costa Cruises)
BEIJING/SHANGHAI, March 9 Global cruise giants
Carnival Corp and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd
will cancel South Korean port visits from their China-based
cruises after Seoul deployed a U.S.missile defense system,
raising tensions between the two countries.
In a post on its Chinese website, Royal Caribbean said it
would remove visits to popular South Korea sites due to "recent
developments regarding the situation in South Korea".
Carnival's Costa Cruises said it was working with tour
operator partners to adjust its offering for Chinese clients.
"Costa Cruises will remove calls to South Korean ports for
our upcoming cruises home ported out of China, replacing them
with cruising at sea or calls to destinations in Japan," it said
in a statement.
The plans mark the first time major travel firms have
publicly stopped or restricted trips to South Korea after media
reports last week that Beijing had given guidance to tour
operators in China to stop selling trips to the country.
A South Korean government document seen by Reuters said
China gave a "7-point" verbal instruction to travel firms
regarding a ban on trips to South Korea. One point blocked
China-based cruise ships from docking in South Korean ports.
In a notice posted on Thursday, Royal Caribbean detailed
changes to itineraries for cruises leaving from Chinese ports.
These removed visits to South Korean destinations such as Busan,
Jeju and Seoul, replacing them with visits to sites in Japan.
The firm did not respond to requests for further comment on
The squeeze on Korean firms underlines Beijing's anger over
a joint plan by South Korea and the United States to set up the
Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile system in
South Korea. Seoul and Washington say it will defend against
nuclear-armed North Korean missiles, but Beijing says its
far-reaching radar is targeted at China.
The crackdown has sent a chill across South Korea's retail
and tourism sectors, which rely heavily on China trade. Chinese
shoppers are big consumers of South Korean products from
cosmetics and television dramas to vacations and music.
The number of Chinese tourists to South Korea has nearly
quadrupled to 8 million over the past five years, accounting for
nearly half of foreign visitors, Korean government data showed.
South Korea has said it will consider filing a complaint
against China to the World Trade Organization over what it
described as trade retaliation over the THAAD deployment issue.
(Reporting by Muyu Xu in BEIJING, Adam Jourdan in SHANGHAI and
Hyunjoo Jin in SEOUL; Editing by Christopher Cushing)