A closed Lotte Mart in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, March 5, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

Lotte Group has begun work to sell its discount store chain in China, an unnamed industry source told Yicai.com, as China steps up its retaliation against the South Korean retail giant due to its support for a US missile defense system.

According to the report, Lotte has appointed Goldman Sachs as its lead adviser to sell its Lotte Mart stores in China. Depending on the results of negotiations with potential buyers, Lotte will not rule out selling all of its discount stores.

Lotte sees local Chinese companies as well as foreign retailers as potential suitors, it said.

About 80 percent of the 112 Lotte Mart stores in China have been closed for more than six months since Chinese authorities tightened safety and sanitary inspections due to Beijing’s retaliation against South Korea’s deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD).