China has promised to protect South Korean players and fans by mobilizing some 8,000 policemen at a football stadium Thursday during a World Cup qualifying match, the South's foreign ministry said.
Some 8,000 police officers will be deployed at Helong Stadium in Changsha in central China's Hunan province, ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck told reporters, adding about 200 South Korean fans would be present.
Anti-Seoul sentiment is rampant in China over the installation of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea that has strained bilateral relations. Beijing has taken a series of retaliatory steps, arguing the system would "seriously" hurt strategic interests of China and other countries as well as the security balance in Northeast Asia.
South Korea and China are in Group A, along with Iran, Qatar, Syria and Uzbekistan, in the final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The match in Changsha will be the second qualifier between South Korea and China. In their first clash in Seoul in September last year, South Korea scored a 3-2 victory. China are ranked last in Group A with two draws and three losses while South Korea with three wins, one draw and one loss are one point behind Iran.
South Korea coach Uli Stielike expects a tough match with China under control by new coach Marcello Lippi. He said South Korea should be mentally ready to overcome China's strong pressure.
"We respect the South Korean team, but we will find a way to beat them if we give our best," said Lippi who led Italy to the 2006 FIFA World Cup title.
Lim Chang-won = email@example.com