Chinese city cancels Daegu trip after Thaad

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Chinese city cancels Daegu trip after Thaad

Following the Korean government’s announcement to deploy the U.S.-made advanced missile defense system in the country, the decades-long intercity cooperation between Daegu and Qingdao of Shandong province in northeastern China could be in danger.

On July 8, Seoul and Washington jointly announced the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) to Korea, a move vehemently opposed by China and Russia.

The government has since been taking steps to assuage possible diplomatic repercussions from countries concerned that Thaad could compromise their security interests. But a backlash from a local Chinese government was perhaps not expected.

The Daegu Metropolitan Government and Qingdao city government agreed in March to an exchange program that involves intercity participation in beer festivals in late July and in August.

“An official of the Qingdao government called Friday to cancel its participation in the Daegu Chimac Festival on Wednesday,” said a Daegu city official. “The Chinese official merely said, ‘The timing is not right.’”

Chimac or chimaek, is a word formed from chicken and maekju, or Korean for beer.

Qingdao was to send 19 people, including city officials and performers to the festival at Daegu on Wednesday, the first day of its five-day festival in Duryu Park.

In return, Daegu was to send from August 1 to 4 some 90 city officials including Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin to a beer festival in Qingdao. The group was to open 11 booths at the monthlong festival to advertise Korean fried chicken businesses, and Mayor Kwon was to sign an intercity economic cooperation agreement with Qingdao’s mayor.

The Qingdao government requested that the trip also be cancelled, according to the Daegu government official.

“After the Thaad decision, I believe the Qingdao government felt a bit of pressure in having high-level city government officials meet in these events,” said the Daegu official. “The Daegu city government will be sending a program officer to Qingdao on Monday to find out exactly why the city decided to cancel the intercity programs.”

The official added that Korea’s chicken enterprises can participate in Qingdao’s beer festival, if Qingdao is concerned only of the “untimeliness” of an official visit by the mayor and other high-level government officials.

Daegu and Qingdao have been so-called sister cities since 1993, and have since hosted each other’s officials and performers in exchange programs. In 2013, when the first Daegu Chimac Festival was held, and last year, Qingdao sent 10 performers and artists to the festival.

“A diplomatic issue between the Korean and Chinese governments should not affect local government ties,” said Lee Jung-tae, professor of international relations at Kyungpook National University. “It’s important that Daegu project this to Qingdao.”

Still, the Qingdao trip cancellation may be limited, given official visits from Ningbo and Yiwu of Zhejiang Province and Chengdu of Sichuan Province to the Daegu Chimac Festival remain on schedule.

There were concerns that the Thaad deployment may curb Chinese tourists’ visit to Korea as well.

Yet the inflow of tourists onto Jeju Island, a popular destination for many Chinese visitors, remains strong.

BY HONG GWEON-SAM [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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