SEOUL Feb 11 China has expelled 32 South Korean
Christian missionaries, a Korean government official said on
Saturday, amid diplomatic tension between the two countries over
the planned deployment of a U.S. missile defence system in the
The 32 were based in China's northeastern Yanji region near
the border with North Korea, many of whom had worked there more
than a decade, South Korean media have reported.
South Korea's foreign ministry said on Friday it briefed
Christian groups on the case of the missionaries, adding that
they were expelled in January.
The ministry advised the groups on the importance of
complying with the laws and customs of the areas where they
work, it said.
In South Korea, China is widely believed to be retaliating
against Seoul's plan to host the Terminal High Altitude Area
Defence (THAAD) system of the U.S. military, against the threat
of the missile attack from North Korea.
But there was no indication of a direct link between the
expulsions and tension over THAAD, said the South Korean
government official, who requested anonymity.
"There was no official explanation from China," he said.
"There is no confirmation that it is related to THAAD."
China's Communist Party says it protects freedom of
religion, but keeps a tight rein on religious activities and
allows only officially recognised religious institutions.
The number of Korean missionaries working in China might top
1,000, South Korean media say. Most are in the northeast, and
many help defectors flee North Korea and travel to third
countries, including the South.
THAAD's radar is capable of penetrating Chinese territory.
Beijing has objected to the planned deployment, saying it will
destabilise the regional balance of security, threaten China's
security and do nothing to ease tension on the Korean peninsula.
Many South Koreans believe Beijing is retaliating against
THAAD, with measures against some companies and cancellations of
performances by Korean artists.
On Wednesday, South Korea's Lotte Group said Chinese
authorities had halted construction at a multi-billion dollar
real estate project after a fire inspection.
(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Richard Borsuk)