• Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship (Photo : Getty Images)

Tensions between China and South Korean on the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) deployment issue has intensified, pushing global cruise giants Carnival Corp and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd to cancel their China-based cruises to South Korean ports, Channel News Asia reported.

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According to a post by the Royal Caribbean on its Chinese website, trips to South Korea sites will be removed due to "recent developments regarding the situation in South Korea."

On the other hand, Carnival said in a statement that it is negotiating with tour operator partners to make adjustments on their Costa Cruises offer to Chinese clients.

"Costa Cruises will remove calls to South Korean ports for our upcoming cruises home ported out of China, replacing them with cruising at sea or calls to destinations in Japan," Carnival said in a statement.

It was the first time that major travel firms have canceled or restricted South Korean port visits after China issued a guideline to tour operators last week, asking them to refrain from selling trips to South Korea.

Reuters said that travel firms were given a "7-point" verbal instruction about a ban trip to South Korea. One of these prohibits China-based cruise ships from docking in South Korea's ports.

On Thursday, March 9, Royal Caribbean posted a notice on the changes to itineraries of ships leaving Chinese ports. The visits to South Korean destination such as Seoul, Busan and Jeju were replaced with visits to Japan sites.

Korean firms have been affected by China's anger over the setting up of the THAAD missile system in South Korea.

The U.S. and South Korea said that the missile defense system is part of the joint security plan against North Korean nuclear missiles but Beijing said it is aimed at China.

South Korea's retail and tourism sectors are worried at the restriction as their businesses depend mainly on China trade and Chinese shoppers are big consumers of South Korean products.

Data from the South Korean government showed that the number of Chinese tourists to the country has reached more than 8 million in the past five years, which account for nearly half of foreign visitors in the country.

South Korea said they are contemplating on filing a complaint against China to the World Trade Organization for what it claimed as an act of trade retaliation over the THAAD issue.