China lodges complaint over S Korean president’s Taiwan comments

China’s vice foreign minister rejects Yoon Suk-yeol declaring Taiwan a ‘global issue’ comparable to North Korea.

FILE PHOTO: South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol attends an interview with Reuters at the Presidential Office in Seoul, South Korea, April 18, 2023. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo
China has criticised remarks by South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who said the issue of Taiwan was of global importance, like issues regarding North Korea [File: Kim Hong-ji/Reuters]

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong has lodged a complaint with South Korea’s ambassador to Beijing over “erroneous” remarks by the South Korean president about Taiwan, China’s foreign ministry says.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s remarks were “totally unacceptable”, Sun told the ambassador, and he also expressed “strong dissatisfaction”, according to a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement on Sunday.

The diplomatic dispute between Beijing and Seoul stems from a recent interview with the Reuters news agency during which Yoon said increased tension around Taiwan was due to attempts to change the status quo by force and that he opposed attempts to do so.

The South Korean leader also said the dispute between China and Taiwan was now a global issue.

“The Taiwan issue is not simply an issue between China and Taiwan, but like the issue of North Korea, it is a global issue,” he told Reuters.

China strongly rejected any comparison between the issue of Taiwan and North Korea, officials said.

“The South Korean leader made no mention of the One China principle but equated the Taiwan issue with the Korean Peninsula issue,” Sun said, according to the foreign ministry.

“Both North and South Korea are sovereign states that have joined the United Nations,” its statement said. “It is a well-known fact that the Korean Peninsula issue and the Taiwan issue are completely different in nature and in latitude and longitude and are not comparable at all.”

Under the One China policy, China insists that democratically governed Taiwan is part of its own territory, a position Taipei strongly rejects. Beijing demands that countries with which it has ties must adopt its position that Taiwan is Chinese territory. China has also stated that it can not rule out using force to reunify Taiwan with the mainland.

Sun’s complaint followed criticism from the Chinese foreign ministry last week that South Korea should “prudently” handle matters related to Taiwan. Seoul hit back by summoning China’s ambassador to protest against Beijing’s remarks, which it described as a “serious diplomatic discourtesy”.

China’s protest came ahead of Yoon’s state visit to the United States, South Korea’s foremost ally. Beijing has long criticised the US for arming Taiwan and has increasingly accused Washington of encouraging pro-independence politicians on the self-ruled island.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that the US Department of State on Friday had echoed Yoon’s remarks on Taiwan.

Department spokesperson Vedant Patel “said the United States will continue to work with its allies, including South Korea, to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”, Yonhap reported on Saturday.

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang also appeared to reference the South Korean president’s comment in an address to a forum in Shanghai on Friday.

“Recently, there has been absurd rhetoric accusing China of upending the status quo, disrupting peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Qin said. “The logic is absurd and the conclusion dangerous.”

Tensions have escalated in the Taiwan Strait in recent years, the most recent involving China launching military exercises this month after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen visited the US and met with the speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, in California.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies