The Korea Herald


China envoy remarks inaccurate: ministry

Beijing expresses regrets over Seoul’s stance, saying envoy was doing his job

By Choi Si-young

Published : June 13, 2023 - 18:51

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The flags of South Korea (right) and China. (123rf) The flags of South Korea (right) and China. (123rf)

The Chinese ambassador to South Korea “intentionally” criticized South Korea’s foreign policy using “inaccurate information,” the Foreign Ministry in Seoul said Tuesday, openly rebuking the top envoy over his remarks that heightened tension between Seoul and Beijing.

“We are not faulting the ambassador for meeting with our opposition leader,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lim Soo-suk said at a briefing, referring to a meeting last week between Ambassador Xing Haiming and Lee Jae-myung, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea.

Xing warned Korea against making “wrong bets” on China losing out to the US in their intensifying rivalry, referring to Seoul’s push for closer ties with Washington. Korea called in Xi to protest lodge a formal complaint, a move China reciprocated in in a tit-for-tat spat, raising tension.

“The problem is in intentionally criticizing our government’s policy using inaccurate information when it was clear such criticism would be made public through the media,” Lim noted.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry immediately expressed “regret” over Lim’s briefing, saying Xing was simply doing his job by engaging with key figures in South Korea. The ministry described Xing’s role as promoting understanding and cooperation while advancing relations, essentially dismissing Seoul’s earlier requests that Beijing take action to contain the latest flare-up in tension.

Meanwhile, Lee Jae-myung, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, came under fire for potentially giving Xi a chance to openly criticize Korea’s foreign policy.

President Yoon Suk Yeol expressed strong disapproval of the comments he said were not pleasing to South Koreans, with his office saying Xi should not meddle in internal affairs as per protocol. Some lawmakers from Yoon’s ruling People Power Party called for Xing to be declared “persona non grata” and be expelled.

Even Rep. Jung Sung-ho of the Democratic Party, a four-term lawmaker close to Lee, said that Lee should have “been more prepared in advance” for the meeting, adding that the Chinese envoy should not “haven spoken the way he did” in the first place. Jung’s remarks are a rare intervention within Lee’s support base, prompted by growing criticism that Lee was seeking to advance his own political agenda.

White House spokesperson John Kirby said the latest remarks by the Chinese envoy was part of a “pressure tactic.” South Korea is an independent sovereign nation that can dictate its own policy, he added.