(Bloomberg) -- South Korea summoned China’s ambassador to express concern over the envoy’s warning that Seoul’s embrace of pro-US policies could bring it harm.
First Vice Foreign Minister Chang Ho-jin issued a stern warning to Chinese Ambassador Xing Haiming in a meeting Friday over what Seoul saw as “provocative” remarks, the ministry said in a statement. Chang called Xing’s language unacceptable and an interference in the domestic politics of South Korea.
Xing said in a Thursday night meeting with South Korean opposition leader Lee Jae-myung that he would be grateful if Seoul freed itself from external factors when dealing with China and that the country has much to gain economically through friendly ties with Beijing. The comments were likely aimed at the deepening of economic and security links between Seoul and Washington that are posing challenges to Beijing.
“In a situation where the US is pressuring China with all its might, some are betting the US will win and China will lose,” Xing said in a video clip shared by a YouTube channel for the main opposition Democratic Party. “But this judgment is clearly wrong and a failure to assess the flow of history properly.”
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has been trying to walk a fine line between the US, his country’s main security ally, and China, its biggest trading partner. He’s shown support for Biden administration calls to restructure global supply chains to reduce dependence on China, drawing criticism from Beijing.
Chinese President Xi Jinping late last year met Yoon and called for boosting cooperation in high-tech manufacturing and working together to maintain a global free-trade system that ensures the security of supply chains.
The remarks were likely directed at the pressure the US has applied to security partners including South Korea, the Netherlands, Taiwan and Japan to comply with its sweeping curbs on the sale of advanced chips and chipmaking equipment to China, where major South Korean semiconductor makers such as SK Hynix Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. and have facilities.
“China will continue to seek various measures to help Korean companies investing in China to keep growing,” Xing said in his meeting.
The envoy also advised South Korea to tread carefully over Taiwan, the self-ruled island China’s Communist Party has pledged to bring under its control someday, by force if necessary.
“The Taiwan issue is central to China, and it’s the foundation of China-South Korea relationship. So there was a solemn promise made by South Korea to China when we established diplomatic relations,” Xing said, referring to the establishment of official ties between Seoul and Beijing about three decades ago.
Read: Six Takeaways from White House Visit by South Korea’s Yoon
In an April meeting with Biden in Washington, Yoon made South Korea’s strongest statement yet on the Taiwan Strait by expressing strong opposition to any unilateral actions in the region.
Yoon, a security hawk, has stepped up military cooperation with the US since taking office a little more than a year ago and has pledged to take a tough line on China. Foreign Minister Park Jin called on Russia and China, the main benefactor for North Korea, to play a more constructive role at the United Nations Security Council, which he said has become “virtually paralyzed” when it comes to curbing Pyongyang’s atomic ambitions.
Park said in an exclusive interview with Yonhap News that Seoul would use its status as a newly elected non-permanent member of the council to push the two powers. China and Russia have used their veto power at the council to prevent new punishments on Kim Jong Un for ballistic missiles tests that violate previous resolutions.
The Chinese envoy also mentioned regional issues in his talks with the South Korean lawmaker, saying he was opposed to Japan’s plans to release treated waste water from the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant. The matter has raised concern in South Korea and Yoon dispatched a delegation of experts last month to gather information.
“It seems that Japan is using the Pacific Ocean as its sewer for economic gain,” Xing said. “This is extremely irresponsible.”
--With assistance from Sangmi Cha.
(Updates and recasts with South Korea summoning envoy.)
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