The Korea Herald


[Editorial] China’s distorted view

Envoy’s controversial remarks do not help improve S. Korea-China relations

By Korea Herald

Published : June 12, 2023 - 05:30

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In a photo taken on Thursday, Chinese Ambassador Xing Haiming and Democratic Party of Korea leader Lee Jae-myung shake hands with big smiles on their faces at the envoy’s residence in Seoul, as if reaffirming friendly diplomatic relations between South Korea and China.

What happened was far from a “diplomatic” gesture, as their meeting touched off a firestorm of criticism from the Yoon Suk Yeol administration and political circles here, while the Chinese government joined the dispute and asserted its forceful stance.

The controversy was triggered by remarks the top Chinese envoy made during his meeting with Lee. The gist of the comments by Xing is that South Korea will “regret” it later if it bets on the US’ victory in its geopolitical competition with China.

“Some people bet the United States will defeat China, but this is certainly a wrong view,” Xing said. “What I can say with confidence is that (South Korea) will certainly regret (its bet).”

Xing also claimed that the two countries' relations recently faced “external challenges,” and called on Seoul to support Beijing’s “One China” policy.

The envoy’s remarks were apparently targeted at the Yoon administration’s recent strategic policy that seeks to strengthen relations with the US and Japan in their collective efforts to counter the threats of North Korea. Yoon’s policy marks a departure from the previous Moon Jae-in administration that tried to maintain friendly ties with China.

Xing’s comments, with Lee taking the shameful role of a sidekick, can be summed up as an unwarranted “threat” to South Korea. No envoy would openly make such remarks targeting his or her host country save one representing China, a country known for its high-handed behaviors toward neighboring countries.

On Friday, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry summoned Xing and filed a complaint over Xing's controversial remarks on South Korea-US relations. First Vice Foreign Minister Chang Ho-jin “sternly warned” against Xing’s “unreasonable and provocative” remarks, the ministry told reporters.

Chang said the Chinese envoy’s remarks potentially violated the Vienna Convention, which involves the mission of diplomatic envoys in promoting friendly relations. Furthermore, Xing’s comments could be viewed as interfering with South Korea's internal affairs, Chang warned.

Foreign Minister Park Jin also slammed Xing’s comments, saying that the ambassador had “gone too far.” In a meeting with reporters after attending a forum in Seoul, Park said there are diplomatic norms and the role of an ambassador is to “promote friendly relations, not to spread misunderstandings.”

South Korea’s ruling party members also criticized Xing’s remarks. Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, leader of the ruling People Power Party, criticized both Xing and the main opposition Democratic Party’s leader Lee for “jointly blaming the Korean government” and the envoy’s comments amounted to a “clear interference in domestic affairs and a serious diplomatic discourtesy.”

Rep. Kang Min-kuk, a senior spokesperson of the People Power Party, said that Xing’s remarks “bordered on a threat.” Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun said in a Facebook post that China seems to consider South Korea as a “vassal state in tributary relations.”

Late Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry supported Xing’s comments, suggesting that his view was in fact the official position of the Chinese government.

“The current difficulties and challenges in China-ROK relations are not caused by China,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, referring to South Korea by the acronym of its formal name, the Republic of Korea.

“It is part of Ambassador Xing’s job to have extensive engagement with the ROK government, political parties and people from all walks of life, exchange views on bilateral relations and issues of mutual interest and share China’s position and concerns,” Wang said at a press briefing. “We hope that relevant parties in the ROK can put this into perspective and focus on how to face up to problems and realize the stability and growth of China-ROK relations.”

Regrettably, it is Xing’s undiplomatic remarks that clearly demonstrate how China fails to face up to problems and needlessly threatens bilateral relations.