The seasonal response of sea surface height anomaly (SSHA) to wind stress curl (WSC) in the northern South China Sea (NSCS) and the Kuroshio intrusion through the Luzon Strait is analyzed using observations and models. The dominant response to WSC is through simple Ekman pumping, while effects of ß appear as the weaker second empirical orthogonal function mode. The Luzon Strait intrusion is shown to be largely deterministic using a model forced by realistic wind in the North Pacific Ocean, and it contributes significantly to the SSH variability in the NSCS. The WSC accounts for 62%, while intrusion 38% of the total forcing, but the latter alters the forced Rossby wave response. Without the intrusion, westward propagation is too fast, resulting in incorrect balance and erroneous annual SSH variability in the NSCS.