Amb. Xing Haiming of China to Korea speaks at an invitational debate hosted by the Kwanhun Club at the Korea Press Center on Oct. 26. (Yonhap)
Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming said Wednesday that relations between Beijing and Seoul have “reached a new critical moment.”
“The US poses an external challenge, while popular sentiments represent an internal difficulty,” he said.
Xing took part in a discussion that morning organized by the Kwanhun Club, an association of journalists, at the Korea Press Center in central Seoul. While discussing the state of South Korea-China relations following the launch of Xi Jinping’s third term as Chinese president on Sunday, he shared critical remarks about the US.
“The US thinks that its own systems are superior and that they’re just and align with universal values, and it views differences from that as ‘wrong,’ so when you don’t obey, it gives you a hard time,” he said.
“This isn’t only true for China. South Koreans have surely gained a deep sense of how the US is ruthless even with its allies when its own interests are jeopardized,” he added.
He went on to say, “China-US relations have a big influence on China-South Korea relations, and many in South Korea are expressing the view that they cannot be asked to choose between the two sides.”
“China has never demanded a choice from any country, and we hope that South Koreans will base their views regarding China and China-South Korea relations on the interests of their country and its people,” he said.
Commenting on the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system deployment that triggered a souring of relations between Seoul and Beijing in the past, Xing said, “The reason we oppose THAAD is that while it’s deployed in Seongju, South Korea, it’s in the hands of the US and could pose a threat to China.”
“Due to the [geographic] proximity between South Korea and China, it disrupts the strategic balance. We would have no reason to oppose it if China’s interests weren’t compromised,” he explained.
Xing also suggested that “excessively negative reporting on China by certain South Korean media appears to be a key cause of the souring of public opinion on both sides.”
“When you focus solely on negative reporting and exaggerate things, that is not helpful to public opinion or friendship between our sides,” he said.
Xing further reiterated Beijing’s position favoring denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue.
“The Korean Peninsula has connections to China. If there were an incident or war, or if [South and North Korea] arm themselves with nuclear weapons, that is not good for China,” he said.
“There has been no change in China’s position that we need to somehow proceed toward denuclearization, that we cannot proceed toward confrontation based on nuclear capabilities,” he added.
Remarking on calls from certain People Power Party (PPP) members for the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea, Xing stressed that in addition to opposing North Korea’s nuclear program, China is also “against the arguments we’ve been hearing these days about how ‘[South Korea] should have nuclear weapons too.’”
He also noted that US Ambassador to South Korea Philip S. Goldberg had expressed his opposition to the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons at a Kwanhun Club discussion held last week.
Responding to one of the discussion participants’ remarks that China appeared to be “condoning North Korea’s possession of nuclear capabilities in order to bring it into the battle for dominance with the US” in spite of fears that a seventh nuclear test may be imminent, Xing asked, “When have we ever condoned it?”
“China has consistently emphasized the importance of denuclearization and the resolution of problems through peaceful means,” he countered.
“China was responsible for creating the three-party talks, four-party talks, and six-party talks [to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue], and [North Korean leader Kim Jong-un] took a Chinese aircraft to Singapore and traveled over Chinese territory to go to Vietnam [for North Korea-US summits],” he stressed.
“Everyone knows that North Korea-US dialogue was made possible by the intermediary role played by China,” he said.
“In the case of the September 19 agreement in 2005, everything was nearly complete when [the US] pursued sanctions against North Korea over the Banco Delta Asia banking issue and the agreement ended up breaking down,” he recalled.
“Even so, we’re contacting various parties and stressing the need to follow a path of ‘goodwill for goodwill’ rather than ‘power for power,’ but is the US going to listen to China?” he asked.
“China will continue to work in its own way for peace and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and the resolution of programs through dialogue and diplomacy,” he added.
When asked whether China had opened up the possibility of reunifying with Taiwan by military force, Xing said, “The ‘One China’ principle stands firm, and we cannot accept Taiwanese independence.”
He also asked, “Would [South Korea] recognize it if Jeju Island declared its independence, or would [the US] recognize it if Hawaii declared independence?”
By Jung In-hwan, staff reporter
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