The proposed deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in the Republic of Korea is a threat to regional security and stability, and Lotte Group is one decision away from becoming an accessory to the act.
In the ROK government-proposed deal, a golf course, currently owned by Lotte, would be used for the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, according to ROK media reports.
The Lotte Group board of directors has yet to make its final decision on the land swap deal: Rightly so, they are playing with fire that could inflame regional relations.
Washington and Seoul argue that THAAD is purely a defense system; a protective measure for potential threats from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
China objects for two reasons.
Firstly, reacting to an arms threat with a threat of arms is not going to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, in fact it will only undermine the regional strategic balance.
Secondly, the THAAD installment poses a severe threat to China's security interests, and could be used to monitor Chinese territory.
If Lotte agrees to the deal the ROK and the U.S. governments will speed up the planned THAAD deployment.
By association, Lotte will hurt the Chinese people and the consequences could be severe.
The Chinese people will not support a company complicit in damaging China's interests.
Lotte, the ROK's fifth largest conglomerate, has over 150 branches in China in the retail sector alone, and its business ranges from food, retail, tourism, construction to finance and service.
Chinese customers contributed 70 percent of Lotte's overall sales at its duty-free shops in the first quarter of last year, company data shows.
Lotte stands to lose Chinese customers and the Chinese market. That would be a very large slice out of their business pie.
The right decision would be for Lotte to defer or reject the deal, thus, forcing the ROK government to review the feasibility of this regionally sensitive project.
One misjudged step could have severe consequences.