Beijing’s baffling whimsDespite its condescending pledges of the normalization of ties during summit talks between the leaders of South Korea and China, Beijing still keeps its grip on group tours to South Korea.
Five travel agencies on Tuesday in Beijing were denied visa permits for package groups destined for South Korea. Beijing banned group tours to the country from March 15 and partially lifted the sanctions in Beijing and Shandong on Nov. 28. Many expected the visit by South Korean President Moon Jae-in would lead to a complete lifting of the ban. But now we find ourselves stupefied by Beijing’s whims.
The Blue House admitted that the tour ban remains intact, saying that Beijing is yet to allow group visas to South Korea. But the fact that China still regulates tourists from going to South Korea is shocking.
The Blue House must seriously ask itself what gains Moon achieved in his visit to China. Seoul touted that Moon’s visit had created the needed momentum for Beijing to completely end its retaliation on Korean businesses over Seoul’s deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense antimissile system.
One presidential aide even said that normalization of trade with China would help the Korean economy grow by 0.2 percentage points.
But we have doubts from Beijing’s actions. Five Chinese military aircraft penetrated the Korean air defense zone two days after Moon returned home. There is a saying that the Chinese show their true intentions with their feet, not their mouths. Judging from its actions so far, Beijing does not appear to have put an end to its offensive campaign over Thaad.
If so, the Oct. 31 agreement to normalize ties may have been a makeshift announcement to set the stage for Moon’s visit to Beijing. The government must clarify why Beijing has not kept its word or whether there is some misunderstanding.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 21, Page 34