INCHEON, South Korea – South Korean defense officials in the city of Incheon, bordering the capital Seoul to the west, were preparing on Monday the remains of Chinese soldiers killed in the Korean War for repatriation, amid rising tensions between Beijing and Seoul over an anti-missile defense system deployment in South Korea.
Five Chinese military officials and ten of their South Korean counterparts attended a ceremony of coffin rites for the remains of 28 Chinese soldiers, ahead of the repatriation scheduled for March 22, an epa journalist reported.
Members of the Ministry of National Defense’s Killed in Action Recovery and Identification unit retrieved the remains from the counties of Cheorwon, Inje and Hongcheon in the northern province of Gangwon, and the counties of Paju, Yeoncheon and Yangpyeong in the northwestern province of Gyeonggi.
The communist regime in China sent troops to fight alongside North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War against the South Korean army backed by the United States and other Western powers.
MAKRI has repatriated some 541 Chinese soldiers since it launched a project in 2000 to locate the remains of missing soldiers, according to the Stars and Stripes military portal.
The repatriation comes after Chinese authorities suspended the operations of several supermarkets owned by South Korean conglomerate Lotte in an alleged sign of protest against the deployment of the US-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.
Analysts predict that Lotte, which handed over one of its properties to the South Korean military to be used as a site for the THAAD system, could lose more than $100 million if the closures last for a month.
Protests against Seoul and a boycott against South Korean products and companies have intensified in China since Seoul and Washington approved the deployment of THAAD in July 2016.
China says the radars of the anti-missile shield, which is designed to counter North Korean missiles targeting South Korea, could be used for spying on its military bases.
Meanwhile, tensions have escalated on the Korean peninsula following the latest weapons test by North Korea on March 6, when the army fired four medium-range missiles into waters close to Japan.
The test-fire was in response to ongoing annual military exercises by Seoul and Washington in South Korea, which Pyongyang considers a provocation and a rehearsal for invading its territory.