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Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming sparked controversy after indirectly criticizing Seoul for siding with Washington instead of Beijing. The incident has led to calls for his expulsion from the country.
In a June 8 meeting with Lee Jae-Myung, head of the largest opposition party, the Democratic Party of Korea, Xing said: “Some people bet on the United States to win and China to lose, but this is clearly the wrong judgment. What can be said with certainty is that those who bet on China’s defeat will surely regret it later.”
The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned him the next day and issued a warning over his “senseless and provocative” remarks. The ministry accused him of violating diplomatic protocols and interfering in domestic affairs.
South Korean Office of National Security Director Cho Tae-yong said on June 9, “Mutual respect is the foundation of inter-state relations.”
Yonhap News Agency reported that on June 13, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol criticized Xing’s remarks in a closed-door meeting at the Yongsan Presidential Office.
Yoon said, “Judging from the attitude of Chinese Ambassador Xing Haiming, it is doubtful whether he is committed to a relationship of mutual respect and friendship as a diplomat.”
Sources in the presidential office told reporters the president’s office took Xing’s criticism very seriously.
In addition, Seoul has increased pressure on Beijing over this incident. A senior official from the South Korean presidential office said at a press conference on June 13 that he was “waiting for the Chinese side to consider the issue thoroughly and take appropriate measures” and that South Korea was waiting for comprehensive measures from the Chinese regime.
Yonhap News Agency revealed that Seoul had not requested specific measures from Beijing and believes it is up to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to resolve the matter.
During a press briefing on June 13 in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin avoided answering questions on the South Korean government’s request for appropriate measures; instead, he accused Seoul of hyping the topic.
More Lawmakers Call for Xing’s Expulsion
A growing number of parliamentarians from the ruling People Power Party have urged the government to designate Xing as persona non grata and expel him from South Korea.
Lee Chul-gyu, the secretary general of the People Power Party, said at a meeting held at the National Assembly on June 13 that Xing’s remarks were offensive and should be considered a major incident that warrants reconsidering his status as a diplomat.
Lee said that four months after he took office in May 2020, Xing pressured the South Korean government through media interviews to support Hong Kong’s national security law formally and that he publicly opposed then-presidential candidate Yoon’s support of Korea’s THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system during the 2021 election campaign, sparking controversy over Xing’s alleged interference in the election.
Lee also referred to recent media reports about Xing’s alleged acceptance of free luxury accommodations, which violated South Korea’s pandemic prevention measures, and alleged tax evasion by the Chinese Embassy. He said that if the allegations were true, Xing would have violated international conventions. Lee further pushed for Xing’s designation as persona non grata by the ruling party.
Kang Min-guk, the chief spokesman of the People Power Party, publicly refuted the editorial of the CCP’s mouthpiece, Global Times, which called South Korea’s diplomacy “insecure, weak, and immature.” Kang said, “Is it truly reasonable for a country’s state media to belittle another country like that?”
Moreover, after Beijing ignored Seoul’s request to take appropriate measures against Xing, South Korean veteran groups staged a demonstration in front of the Chinese Embassy on June 13, expressing anger at the Chinese ambassador’s behavior, which they believed undermined the sovereignty of South Korea.
90 Percent of South Koreans Are Anti-China
A survey on U.S.-China competition conducted by the Eurasia Group, a U.S. political risk consulting firm, revealed that most respondents preferred the United States over China. One in 10 South Koreans have a favorable opinion of China, while 8 out of 10 have a favorable view of the United States.
The survey, released on Dec. 12, 2022, was conducted on 1,500 respondents aged 18 to 65 in South Korea, the Philippines, and Singapore. All three countries are members of the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) and the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
South Koreans led in their favorability toward the United States at 82.6 percent, followed by 81.6 percent for the Philippines, and 48 percent for Singapore. The percentage of those with a favorable view of China was 56 percent in Singapore, 30.2 percent in the Philippines, and 14.8 percent in South Korea.