No incident has more deeply scarred contemporary South Korean thinking than China’s imposition of economic sanctions after Seoul agreed in 2016 to deploy a U.S. missile defense system.

At every opportunity, South Koreans explain that they paid too high a price for that decision and warn that their economy cannot survive similar blows in the future.

It’s an understandable reaction — but misguided. South Korea’s defiance may have generated short-term pain, but China ultimately retreated. There are lessons to be learned from this episode — and others like it — but a decision to not defend national interests is not one of them.