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China wary of South Korea's US-centered policy

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Foreign Minister Park Jin, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pose during their meeting in Qingdao, China, Tuesday. Courtesy of Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Foreign Minister Park Jin, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pose during their meeting in Qingdao, China, Tuesday. Courtesy of Ministry of Foreign Affairs

By Kang Seung-woo

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pressed South Korea, Tuesday, to act independently as the United States ramps up pressure on Seoul to side with Washington amid an intensifying U.S.-Sino rivalry.

Foreign Minister Park Jin and Wang held the talks during his first trip to China since taking office in May and the meeting was widely seen as being crucial to setting the tone for Seoul-Beijing relations under the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol administration.

"While the two countries head toward the 30th anniversary of the establishment of South Korea-China diplomatic ties, both sides should maintain independence without being affected by the outside," Wang said, adding that the two countries should consider each other's interests.

"We have to adhere to a win-win to ensure a stable and smooth supply chain," he added.

Wang's remarks came as thorny issues between the two neighboring countries are expected to hamper their bilateral relations ― although the two sides are scheduled to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties two weeks later.

The Yoon Suk-yeol administration is set to join the U.S.-proposed chip alliance, also known as Chip 4 or Fab 4, believed to be a platform to counter Beijing's rising influence in global supply chains.

In addition, the Chinese government has urged the new South Korean administration to commit itself to the so-called "Three Nos" policy when it comes to the possible deployment of additional U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries on the Korean Peninsula.

Amid the strong Chinese stance on South Korea's U.S.-focused foreign policy, there is speculation that Beijing may understand Seoul's position straddling the two powerhouses, but expects South Korea to represent Beijing's interests within the partnership without leaning to heavily towards Washington's demands, according to the Global Times, China's state-run media outlet.

"There is a high chance that South Korea will eventually become a member of the alliance, but the country is very likely to become a counterforce to the U.S. within the alliance on many issues, in that it will object to many requirements raised by the U.S. to crack down on China's chip market," it said in an article Monday, citing an analyst.

It also said South Korea may raise more requirements on reducing the negative impact on its chip exports to China.

According to statistics, South Korea's semiconductor exports reached $128 billion (168 trillion won) last year, and 60 percent headed to the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong.

The article seems to mark a shift from its previous hardline stance, describing South Korea's decoupling with the Chinese market as "commercial suicide."

In response, Park said both countries should deal with new challenges such as supply chains and others based on bilateral economic relations.

"To this end, South Korea and China need to strengthen communication with each other through a strategic cooperative partnership," Park said.

In addition, Park asked China to play a role in resolving North Korea's nuclear issue.

"Marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of South Korea-China diplomatic ties, both sides should forge cooperative ties," Park said.

"In particular, there are growing yet unprecedented threats on the peninsula and we ask China to play a constructive role in returning North Korea to the negotiating table," he added.

Park also said South Korea was looking forward to Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Seoul.


Kang Seung-woo ksw@koreatimes.co.kr


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