China’s foreign ministry said that new ambassadors from seven countries, including the South Korean envoy to Beijing, expressed intention to participate in China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative while meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Beijing’s announcement was “unilateral,” arguing that it was a comprehensive briefing that included remarks by other countries’ envoys.
China’s One Belt One Road initiative is a massive project aimed at connecting neighboring countries through investments in overseas infrastructures to create a giant economic bloc extending from the Eurasian continent to African waters. Some 120 countries around the world have signed agreements to cooperate with the project, while South Korea and Japan – two of the closest allies to the United States – have not. Washington demand Seoul’s participation in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy aimed at countering the Chinese ambition.
Seoul has so far expressed just its general principle of seeking common grounds and cooperation between its foreign policy and various ideas within the region, reiterating ambiguous rhetoric without clarifying its position as it is caught between the confrontation between Beijing and Washington. Although South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon on Thursday ordered the South Korean foreign ministry to consider setting up an organization that would focus on the U.S.-China conflict, it remains unclear whether the plan would be enough to get Seoul out of the situation of no responses and no measures.
The South Korean government should lodge a complaint against China for its diplomatic discourtesy of making a unilateral and distorted announcement on Seoul’s position. While Beijing may be attempting to have Seoul on its side against Washington, its move shows nothing but China’s arrogance. Such diplomatic attitude of China reminds us of its mean retaliation against Seoul’s deployment of the U.S. antimissile system called the THAAD. The South Korean government should remember that its passive attitude toward China would not prevent the recurrence of the THAAD situation.