SEOUL: South Korean retail giant Lotte on Tuesday signed a deal to provide a golf course to host a controversial US missile defence system loathed by Beijing, Seoul’s defense ministry said.
Food- and retail-focussed Lotte Group, South Korea’s fifth-biggest company, has come under growing pressure from China, a crucial market, over the proposal.
The plan by Washington and Seoul to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in response to threats from nuclear-armed North Korea has angered Beijing, which fears it will undermine its own ballistic capabilities.
Chinese authorities forced Lotte to suspend a $2.6-billion theme park construction project, and other South Korean businesses have faced tougher regulatory hurdles from Beijing.
But the Lotte board on Monday approved the swap of a company-owned golf course in Seongju county, in southeastern South Korea, for a parcel of military-owned ground near Seoul. The defense ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the contract had been signed.
Under the agreement, Lotte will provide 1.480 million square meters of land in Seongju – with an estimated value of 8.9 billion won ($7.9 million) – for 67,000 square meters on the outskirts of the capital.
The defense ministry said the THAAD deployment would go ahead this year as scheduled.
China’s foreign ministry on Monday reiterated its strong opposition to the planned installation, warning of “consequences” for Seoul and Washington.
Last year, the impoverished but nuclear-armed North staged two atomic tests and a number of missile launches.
The most recent missile test on February 12 – the first since US President Donald Trump took office – showed some signs of progress in its missile capabilities, according to the South Korean military.