Korea’s Foreign Ministry summoned Chinese ambassador in Seoul Xing Haiming for his “provocative remarks” made during his live-broadcast meeting with the Democratic Party leadership at his home in Seoul on Thursday.
Vice Foreign Minister Chang Ho-jin summoned Xing to the ministry headquarters in Seoul on Friday, to convey “strong warning and regret” to Xing for his actions and comments made in his meeting with Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung on Thursday.
“The ambassador made criticisms against the Korean government’s policy in front of numerous media outlets, with statements that are not true and cannot be tolerated,” said the ministry in its statement Friday. “Such an action not only runs counter to the Vienna Convention and diplomatic customs, but also attempts to intervene in internal politics of Korea.”
“We want South Korea to be free from outside factors in handling its relations with China,” Xing said after inviting Lee to his diplomatic residence in Seoul on Thursday. “In a situation where the U.S. is pressuring China with all its might, some are betting that the U.S. will win and China will lose.
“What can be affirmed is that those who now bet on China’s defeat will surely regret it later,” Xing said.
The meeting quickly turned into a political storm, with some politicians in Seoul calling Xing’s comments a diplomatic gaffe, reminiscent of the times of the Chinese dynasty.
People Power Party leader Kim Ki-hyeon said Xing’s comment was “a clear interference in Korea’s domestic affairs.”
“Xing did not hesitate to relay his criticisms openly, making remarks that seemed to place responsibility for the worsening relationship between Korea and China on Korea,” Kim said. “It is not only a clear interference in Korea’s domestic affairs, but also a serious diplomatic gaffe.”
Xing in his comments blamed Korea for the deterioration of its relations with China.
“At present, Korea-China relations have encountered many difficulties, and frankly, the blame lies not with China,” he said. “We hope that the Korean side will keep its promises and make sure to respect China’s core concerns, such as on the Taiwan issue.”
Officials in Beijing and Seoul engaged in a tit-for-tat war of words after President Yoon Suk Yeol in an interview with Reuters referred to “attempts to change the status quo by force” on Taiwan, stressing his resolve to “together with the international community absolutely oppose such a change.”
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang made his controversial comment later that week that seemed to allude to Yoon’s comments: “Those who play with fire on the Taiwan issue will set themselves on fire,” Qin said in a forum hosted in Shanghai on April 21.
Kim also criticized Lee for siding with Xing and “playing the backup dancer.”
“Ambassador Xing took out a prepared manuscript and criticized the government of the Republic of Korea in a determined manner, yet Lee listened obediently for 15 minutes, without any protest to his rude remarks,” Kim said.
The location was also considered an anomaly, as such an on-the-record meeting involving party leadership usually takes place at their office at the National Assembly.
It is considered uncommon for an ambassador to call upon the heads of parties to their diplomatic residence to air grievances.
After criticism escalated, DP leader Lee on Friday claimed that he met with the Chinese ambassador to discuss restoring trade with China.
“I have met and discussed with the Chinese ambassador finding an economic breakthrough,” Lee said. “For us, who relies on exports, digging out of a swamp of low growth is impossible by excluding our biggest trading partner.”
“Our government has to properly see the truth that not only American but also high ranking European government officials are visiting China and expanding cooperation in economics,” Lee said.
The Foreign Ministry in its statement Friday said Xing’s actions and remarks “were seriously contrary to the wishes of the governments and peoples of the two countries to value and develop their relations based on mutual respect.”
BY HO-JEONG LEE, ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]