Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming has publicly criticized former Attorney General Yoon Seok-yeol, a strong candidate for South Korea’s next presidential election, for his remarks on the SAD system, sparking controversy in South Korea over China’s interference in the election.
In a recent interview with the media, Yoon said that if China wants South Korea to withdraw SAD, it should first withdraw the long-range radar deployed near its border. Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming rebutted Yoon’s remarks the next day through an article, saying that the U.S. deployment of SAD in South Korea seriously undermines China’s security interests, but that Chinese radars definitely do not pose a threat to South Korea.
Xing’s move drew criticism in South Korea for “violating diplomatic practices and interfering in the election”. The South Korean Foreign Ministry also asked the Chinese embassy to “be careful when stating its position publicly and not to negatively affect the development of relations between the two countries.
China’s ambassador to South Korea criticizes powerful candidate for SAD in presidential election
In an interview with South Korea’s JoongAng Daily on the 14th of this month, Yoon Seok-yeol spoke specifically about his views on South Korea-U.S. and China-U.S. relations. He pointed out that “the issue of SAD deployment clearly belongs to the sovereign domain of South Korea” and that “if China insists on withdrawing SAD deployment, it should first withdraw the long-range radar deployed near its border.
Yoon Seok-yeol stressed that “South Korea’s diplomatic security should be built on a strong ROK-US alliance …… and should strengthen cooperative relations with countries that share common values” and that “only by conducting diplomacy with China within the framework of such international cooperation It is only within the framework of such international cooperation that we can establish a mutually equal relationship with China.”
Yoon also criticized the current administration’s foreign policy toward the U.S. and its “strategic ambiguity” in the middle of the U.S. “Korea-U.S. relations should be a constant, but the Moon Jae-in administration has turned it into a variable,” and “it should not be forgotten that only Korea-U.S. relations are tight, and China and other countries are not. The government should not forget that other countries such as China will respect us only if the relationship between South Korea and the U.S. is tightly knit. He pointed out that the fierce international competition revolves around semiconductors, and under such circumstances, it is no longer possible to stick to ambiguous strategic ambiguity. “If we take the opposite path from the U.S., we will not be able to start global business, and the government should lead the way for companies with ‘strategic clarity’.
Yoon Seok-yeol is considered one of the strongest candidates for the next presidential election scheduled for March next year, and his support rating is one of the highest in several polls conducted recently. Yoon has a strong background in the judicial system, having served as the head of the investigation team of former President Park Geun-hye’s special investigation team in the case of her cronyism and as the head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office, and was appointed by Moon Jae-in as attorney general in 2017. However, during the investigation of a series of incidents involving the current administration, Yoon Seok-yeol had serious conflicts with the ruling party, which led to his resignation and made him a strong candidate for the general election by gaining support from opponents of the current administration. At the end of last month, Yoon formally announced his candidacy for president.
The day after Yoon’s interview, Chinese Ambassador Xing Haiming published an article in the JoongAng Daily titled “Korea-China relations are not an adjunct to Korea-U.S. relations,” refuting Yoon’s comments line by line. The article began by stating that “China respects South Korea’s foreign policy, but the ROK-US alliance should not harm China’s interests …… China-ROK relations are by no means an appendage of ROK-US relations, and the development of relations between the two countries cannot be influenced by other factors.”
Xing Haiming noted regarding SAD that “the Chinese people (are) uneasy about the deployment of SAD.” In particular, he said he was “unable to understand Yun Seok-yue’s remarks about Chinese radar, and has never heard from his Korean friends that Chinese radar poses a threat to South Korea. …… China has always taken defensive defense measures and has never treated South Korea as an imaginary enemy, and China’s defense forces are designed to guard national unity, regional and world peace and stability. peace and stability of the region and the world.”
Xing Haiming blamed South Korea for the chilling of relations between the two countries after the deployment of SAD and “missed the Sino-Korean relations before the deployment of SAD …… The inconsistent words and actions of the then South Korean government undermined the strategic mutual trust between the two countries.”
The article also implies that the U.S. is the driving force behind the decoupling of global industrial chains, such as semiconductors, and that “a free market economy should be built on the basis of a free and democratic society, but some countries that currently boast of freedom and democracy are bucking the trend and deliberately trying to ‘decouple’.” Xing concluded by saying that China will provide a huge market and better development opportunities for all countries, including South Korea.
Chinese ambassador accused of interfering in South Korea’s election, Korean government urges Chinese embassy to speak cautiously
Xing’s move sparked accusations of “interfering in the South Korean election” in South Korean political and diplomatic circles.
Park Jin, a member of the National Power Party, South Korea’s largest opposition party, urged “China not to interfere in the South Korean election” in a Facebook post on the 16th. He expressed his agreement with Yoon Seok-yeol’s view on the deployment of SAD and believed that “most South Koreans feel the same way”. Park Jin next pointed out that “the way the ambassador to a foreign country refuted the foreign security policy of a strong election candidate and advocated his country’s position is a clear act of sovereignty violation, and it is difficult not to trigger criticism that China is trying to interfere in the election …… The Chinese ambassador’s rash statement is tantamount to pouring cold water on Korea-China relations. “.
Yoon Seok-yeol himself said a week later in response to a reporter’s question about it that Xing Haiming’s move violated international diplomatic practice and basic common sense and that there was no need to respond, so he did not make any response. He also stressed that “although Korea and China can become a partnership, but can not become an alliance …… Korea’s alliance is only the United States, signed the alliance treaty must do their responsibility, this is the basic”.
Experts in the field of South Korean diplomacy have also said in an interview with the Voice of America that the Chinese ambassador’s move was inappropriate. Shin Fan-chul, director of the Center for Diplomatic Security at the Korea Institute for Economic and Social Research and a former policy planning officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told VOA that Xing Haiming’s move “is very rare in terms of diplomatic practice and will create the impression that he opposes the opposition forces in South Korea and supports the ruling party, and can be seen as interfering too much in South Korea’s domestic issues.
Cha Doo-hyun, chief researcher and director of the Center for Diplomatic Security at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in South Korea, pointed out to VOA that “Yoon Seok-yeol is not an official, not even officially registered as a candidate in the election, and is strictly speaking a private citizen. It is inappropriate for the Chinese ambassador to comment on the remarks of a private citizen under his own title. In addition, Xing Haiming, “in his capacity as ambassador, indicated that this is an issue that China strongly dislikes and will strongly protest, which may influence the Korean government or key decision makers and constitute pressure in disguise.
Kang Jun-young, director of the Center for International Area Studies at Korea University of Foreign Studies, told VOA that “China dislikes interference in its internal affairs and always asks other countries not to interfere in its own internal affairs, but it is very inappropriate for it to do so without any concern.
As the related controversy festered, a source from the South Korean Foreign Ministry pointed out in an interview with Yonhap News Agency that “it is necessary for foreign embassies and consulates to be cautious when publicly stating their positions on the statements of politicians in their countries, and should not have an impact on the development of relations between the two countries.” This is reportedly the official position of the South Korean Foreign Ministry on Hyung Hae-myung’s rebuttal of Yoon Seok-yeol’s submission, and has been conveyed to the Chinese Embassy in South Korea.
Recently, Chinese officials abroad have frequently engaged in “war-wolf diplomacy” to strongly counter criticism of China. In May this year, Xing Haiming publicly expressed his dissatisfaction with the joint statement of the South Korean and U.S. heads of state on the Taiwan Strait to the South Korean media.
Experts: The Chinese ambassador’s move may be due to concerns that South Korea is moving closer to the United States
It is not yet possible to confirm whether Xing Haiming’s contribution was at the behest of the Chinese government or his personal opinion, but experts told the Voice of America that the move is a clear indication that China is very concerned about issues related to the U.S. and South Korea-U.S. relations.
According to Cha, “China is overly sensitive to issues related to the U.S.” as the U.S. and China are competing with each other.
Kang Jun-young further analyzed that “recently, South Korea has frequently shown closer ties with the U.S., so as the ambassador to South Korea, Hyung Hae-myung conveyed China’s concern to South Korea and asked South Korea not to move closer to the U.S.”.
In fact, the South Korean government has recently made clear the tone of developing Korea-China relations based on the ROK-US alliance. In its report on the G-7 Summit submitted to the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee at the end of last month, the South Korean Foreign Ministry stated that it “will continue to maintain communication with China by harmoniously developing the Korea-China strategic partnership based on the Korea-U.S. alliance.
In a recent report titled “Will Korea become more global? New Possibilities for Cooperation with the Biden Administration,” South Korea is increasingly aware of the blatant Chinese pressure and sees the benefits of a more globalized South Korea – provided it is firmly rooted in the expanding U.S.-South Korea alliance. “The repositioning and strengthening of the U.S.-Korea alliance following the meeting with President Joe Biden will be Moon’s most enduring foreign policy legacy.”