Chinese state media have called for an end to all developments in China by the South Korean retail and leisure conglomerate, Lotte Group, as punishment for its role in the deployment of a US missile defence system set to be installed in South Korea.
The retaliation, if it comes to pass, would be a blow for the Korean developer, which is putting the finishing touches on a $2.6bn theme park in Shenyang, northeastern China. Lotte also has around 120 other retail establishments across its vast neighbour’s territory.
A harshly worded editorial in the English-language edition of the state-owned newspaper, Global Times, berated South Korea for being "an arrogant pawn of Washington in the latter’s military containment against China".
It also accused South Korea of betraying the conditions for peace in the region, and said "counterattacks toward Seoul is a must for Beijing".
Known for its aggressive pro-government stance, the newspaper focussed its ire on Lotte Group.
"Showing Lotte the door will be an effective warning to all the other foreign forces that jeopardize China’s national interests," the editorial said, adding: "This is the dignity China should have as a major power."
Showing Lotte the door will be an effective warning to all the other foreign forces that jeopardize China’s national interests– Global Times’ editorial
Lotte Group got embroiled in geopolitical tensions when it agreed in principal to do a land-swap with the South Korean government, exchanging a golf course in the Seongju region for some land controlled by the Korean military.
On this golf course South Korea plans to deploy the United States’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD) to counter missile threats from North Korea.
China, however, is fiercely opposed to the THAAD deployment, saying it can be deployed against China as well.
As tensions mounted, work on Lotte’s Shenyang development – due for completion this year and featuring a shopping mall, hotel and residential complex, all valued by Bloomberg at $2.6bn – was halted after a fire inspection in December.
Lotte had been delaying approval for the land-swap but a final decision to go ahead with the deal was reported on 27 February, prompting the angry Global Times editorial on 28 February.
In its editorial, titled "Lotte’s development in China should come to an end", the Global Times stopped short of pushing for state sanctions.
Instead, it said, "Chinese society should coordinate voluntarily in expanding restrictions on South Korean cultural goods and entertainment exports to China, and block them when necessary."
"Offering land for the THAAD installation is not entirely Lotte’s fault," the editorial said, "yet Chinese society has neither the obligation nor interest to examine and distinguish what role Lotte has played in the undertaking. Showing Lotte the door will be an effective warning to all the other foreign forces that jeopardize China’s national interests. This is the dignity China should have as a major power."
Image: A THAAD interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test (photo provided by the US Department of Defense/Creative Commons)