SEOUL/BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s stalled projects with South Korea will resume as ties between the two nations thaw, South Korea’s presidential office spokesman on Friday quoted Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as saying.
Many South Korean businesses will benefit from better ties, and many Chinese are expected to visit South Korea during the winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Yoon Young-chan told reporters in text messages, citing the Chinese premier.
“We are aware that some Korean companies are struggling but the investment environment has not worsened and if China-South Korea relations improve, South Korean companies will have many benefits,” Li said, according to Yoon.
The comments were made as South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in visited China this week.
Ties had chilled for nearly a year as Beijing was upset over the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD), in South Korea, as a protective step in the crisis over the weapons programmes of North Korea.
China fears THAAD’s powerful radar could look deep into its territory, threatening its own security, and says its deployment will do nothing to help ease tension with the North.
China and South Korea agreed in October to normalise exchanges and move past the dispute, which froze trade and business exchanges.
Li alluded to the troubled ties when speaking to Moon in front of reporters, saying both sides looked forward to the warmth of spring.
“We should say, springtime is expected,” Li added. “We also all want China and South Korea relations to move forward in a stable and healthy manner.”
Relations were in a “crucial period” where the spat over THAAD might end, China’s official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary, adding that exiting the low point depended on whether South Korea “keeps its word and acts resolutely”.
By freezing political relations and thwarting trade cooperation, THAAD had posed “the greatest threat to diplomatic relations in 25 years”, it said.
South Korea has invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend the February winter Olympics, hoping they will serve as a turning point for peace on the Korean peninsula.
Reporting by Jane Chung and Cynthia Kim; Additional reporting by Christine Kim in SEOUL and Christian Shepherd in BEIJING; Editing by Clarence Fernandez