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Beijing to restrict tourism to South Korea amid THAAD protests

By Ed Adamczyk
Beijing to restrict tourism to South Korea amid THAAD protests
A Chinese woman walks past a travel agency specializing in trips and packages to South Korea in downtown Beijing on August 27, 2013. South Korea remains one of the top tourist destinations for China, but the Chinese government ordered a ban on group trips to China on Thursday. File photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

March 3 (UPI) -- Chinese officials ordered Beijing travel agencies to stop selling tourist packages to South Korea in retaliation for South Korea's new defense shield.

The order Thursday from the Chinese National Tourism Administration immediately affects Beijing-area tourist agencies, including the online travel portal Ctrip. Wang Ki-young of South Korea's Culture Ministry told the Financial Times on Friday the ban on tourist sales is expected to be expanded to other Chinese provinces. The order says that all group tours, organized by Beijing-area agencies, departing China for South Korea after March 15 must be canceled.

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The action is regarded as retaliation against South Korea for its planned deployment of a high-tech, U.S.-built anti-missile defense system, known as Terminal High Altitude Defense Area, or THAAD, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported Friday. China said installation of the system undermines security in East Asia and that THAAD radar could easily intercept signals pertinent to Chinese military developments. The United States and South Korea insist that installation of the system is aimed exclusively at North Korea.

The South Korean retail giant Lotte Group's websites in China and South Korea have experienced hacking incidents since it agreed to hand over a plot of land earlier this week for use as a THAAD site. The hacking attacks are widely suspected to be directed by Beijing, Yonhap said. The assets of Lotte Group include hotels and duty-free shops which would be affected by the Chinese freeze on tourism to South Korea.

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