South Korea retaliates after China says its making ‘wrong bets’ by siding with US

Chinese and South Korean flags flutter in front of Tiananmen Rostrum in Beijing  (Getty Images)
Chinese and South Korean flags flutter in front of Tiananmen Rostrum in Beijing (Getty Images)

South Korea has not taken kindly to recent remarks by China’s ambassador to the Korean nation in which he warned that Seoul was “making wrong bets” by increasingly aligning itself with the US.

Xing Haiming made the remarks during a meeting with South Korean main opposition party leader Lee Jae-myung on Thursday, where he called on Seoul to stop “decoupling” from Beijing.

The remarks, made in the backdrop of a continuing Sino-US rivalry, led to the issuance of a summons by the Korean nation’s foreign ministry on Friday.

Mr Xing had warned South Korea against making the “wrong judgement” on China because of the “interference of external factors” such as US pressure.

“I can assure you, those who bet on China’s defeat will definitely regret it,” Mr Xing said late on Thursday.

He further blamed Seoul for creating “difficulties” in bilateral ties by not respecting Beijing’s core interests, including over self-governed island Taiwan which China claims it can take with force, while being influenced by the US.

“China-South Korea relations face many difficulties. Frankly, the blame does not lie with China,” Mr Xing said, according to a statement released by the embassy. “We hope that the South Korean side will faithfully keep its promise and clearly respect China’s core concerns, such as the Taiwan issue.”

The diplomat also urged South Korea to restore its economic and diplomatic ties with China.

Mr Xing said South Korea’s trade deficits worsened because of its efforts to “decouple” from China. He said South Korea could “enjoy the bonus” from Chinese economic growth if its confidence in bilateral ties are restored.

“The two countries have built an inextricable economic structure in which their industrial and supply chains are closely connected,” he said.

In retaliation, South Korea’s foreign ministry on Friday said the country’s first vice foreign minister Chang Ho-jin summoned Mr Xing against what he said were “provocative” remarks and expressed “strong regret”.

Mr Chang said openly criticising Seoul’s policy with “untrue content and intolerable expressions” could constitute an act of interfering in the Korean country’s domestic politics.

“Vice minister Chang clearly warned Ambassador Xing... that he will be responsible for all the consequences,” the ministry said in a statement.

The South Korean opposition party has criticised president Yoon Suk-yeol and his administration for what it called the lopsided diplomacy toward the US alliance at the expense of ties with China, its top trading partner.