SEOUL: A group of South Korean opposition lawmakers defied President Park Geun-Hye and left for China on Monday to discuss the deployment of a US anti-missile system that has opened a damaging rift between Seoul and Beijing. Park had urged the MPs to scrap their trip, arguing that it would boost China’s opposition to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and deepen divisions in South Korea over the issue. Seoul’s decision to host a THAAD battery, to counter a growing threat from North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, has been condemned by China as a threat to its own security interests and to regional stability. The ongoing row is threatening to undo the substantial effort President Park has put into strengthening ties with China, which is not only South Korea’s largest trade partner but also the key player in curbing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Kim Young-Ho, one of the six lawmakers from the main opposition Minjoo Party traveling to Beijing, said their sole motivation was to calm the situation. “We are visiting with the hope of offering at least a little warmth to the icy Seoul-Beijing ties,” Kim was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency before leaving Seoul. But Park insisted the visit would be counter-productive and suggested the MPs were being irresponsibly disloyal.