Chinese envoy to Seoul openly critical of Yoon administration at meeting with opposition leader

Posted on : 2023-06-09 18:19 KST Modified on : 2023-06-09 18:19 KST
Xing Haiming that those betting against China would come to regret it
Lee Jae-myung (left), leader of the Democratic Party of Korea, shakes hands with Ambassador Xing Haiming, China’s representative in Korea, at the Chinese Embassy in Seoul’s Seongbuk District on June 8. (National Assembly pool photo)
Lee Jae-myung (left), leader of the Democratic Party of Korea, shakes hands with Ambassador Xing Haiming, China’s representative in Korea, at the Chinese Embassy in Seoul’s Seongbuk District on June 8. (National Assembly pool photo)

China’s ambassador to South Korea harshly criticized the Yoon Suk-yeol administration for bolstering relations with the US and trilateral cooperation with the US and Japan as part of its US-oriented “values diplomacy” during a meeting with the leader of Korea’s largest opposition party on Thursday.

Given how unusual it is for the Chinese ambassador to openly express dissatisfaction with the Korean government in a meeting with the leader of the opposition, Xing Haiming’s remarks are expected to provoke diplomatic controversy.

Xing invited Lee Jae-myung, head of the opposition Democracy Party, to the Chinese Embassy in Seoul’s Seongbuk District on Thursday afternoon to discuss Korea-China relations and Korean Peninsula issues.

“China-Korea relations have been facing external challenges. We hope that Korea will extricate itself from external obstacles in its dealings with China,” Xing said during the meeting.

“Some are betting that the US would be victorious over China if it pressured China with all its might. What I can say for certain is that anyone who is currently betting on China’s defeat will certainly come to regret that,” the Chinese ambassador said.

His remarks seem to represent sharp criticism of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration’s foreign policy, which is heavily biased toward the US.

Xing said that Korea and China need to courageously tackle the various obstacles and challenges confronting them. He compared the two countries to boats moving against the current, suggesting they will drift backward if they don’t push forward.

When Lee mentioned “concerns about a serious loss of trust and respect between Koreans and Chinese since the two countries’ establishment of diplomatic relations,” Xing said, “To be frank, the responsibility for that doesn’t lie with China.”

“China would be extremely grateful if South Korea would respect its key interests,” the ambassador said.

Xing and Lee also discussed the issue of Japan’s planned release of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant.

“I think [our two countries] ought to speak with one voice and explore joint countermeasures, if possible, in regard to the issue,” Lee said on the topic.

“Since China and Korea are both neighbors of Japan, we need to do our best to keep the contaminated water from being dumped into the ocean so as to protect the lives and safety of our respective peoples and to protect the earth’s oceans and maritime ecosystems,” Xing said in response.

Xing was harshly critical of Japan during this part of the conversation. “Japan treats the Pacific Ocean as its private sewer so that it can profit economically,” he said, calling it “highly irresponsible behavior.”

Lee expressed concerns about Korea’s trade deficit with China, and called on China to take up its role in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and establishing lasting peace there. In response, Xing said that China was “closely observing” Korea’s trade deficit with China. While some causes include the worsening of global economic conditions and the chip market taking a downturn, Xing said, “I think the attempt to get out of China by some is a more important factor.”

“If Korea solidifies its belief in cooperation with China, adjusts to the changes in the Chinese market and industrial structure, and forms a strategy for investment in China in a timely manner, it will be able to continue reaping the benefits of the growth of the Chinese economy,” Xing told Lee.

Thursday’s meeting between the two came about on the suggestion of the Chinese Embassy to Lee’s office. Peking duck and an alcohol pairing reportedly were on the menu for the dinner banquet, which kicked off at 6 pm and lasted two hours.

The Chinese Embassy in Seoul released Xing’s remarks in a release to the press. Some have called it unprecedented for a country’s ambassador to Korea to provide remarks from a meeting with a domestic politician to the press.

By Shin Min-jung, staff reporter; Kang Jae-gu, staff reporter

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