Go to contents

China’s N. Korean Ambassador: Pro-U.S.

Posted September. 09, 2006 06:14,   


China appointed a diplomatic expert on the U.S. who has never served for any department related to North Korea or the Korean peninsular as new ambassador to Pyongyang, drawing much attention.

Chinese President Hu Jintao named 50-year old Liu Xiaoming, assistant governor of Gansu Province, as new ambassador to North Korea, the Chinese media, including Xinhua News Agency, reported in chorus Thursday.

Liu has extensive experience in U.S. affairs but none in Korean peninsular issues. This is first time for China to send an U.S. specialist to the North as an ambassador.

After earning his master’s degree in 1983 from the Fletcher School of Law and Foreign Affairs, Tufts University, he has mainly worked for the Chinese Embassy in the U.S. and North American and Oceania Affairs Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). He has so far served for non-U.S. related offices for only five years; two years and seven months as assistant governor of Gansu Province, four months as a staff member of the MOFA and two years and one month as the Chinese ambassador to Egypt.

In particular, he is the first Chinese ambassador to North Korea born before the Korean War. All the predecessors like Wu Donghe, who were born in 1930s or 1940s, experienced the honeymoon between China and North Korea, unlike Liu.

Analysts agree that such drastic change reflects China’s efforts to resolve core diplomatic issues like North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues at a new angle.

They also point out that this heralds China’s intention to untangle North Korean issues based on its relations with the U.S.. China has been saying its relations with both the U.S. and North Korea are very important. Some critics also predict that the relationship between China and North Korea, often referred to as a “blood-pledge alliance” will undergo a change. North Korea has been maintaining strong diplomatic ties with China as socialist allies.

China, which desperately needs fast but stable growth for the next several decades to become an advanced nation, cannot simply ignore or reject the demand of the U.S., the world’s biggest economic and military power, in dealing with issues like North Korea’s nuclear problem. In other words, it appears that China which has been giving only “carrots” to North Korea is now likely to give “sticks” as well.

“This signals China’s shift in diplomacy against North Korea,” the Wen Wei Po Daily, a Hong Kong-based newspaper, said, mentioning the appointment of Liu.

Although Liu was reportedly to assume his new post within next week, the Chinese press on Thursday did not specify the exact date he will proceed to his new post, only mentioning the fact that he was named as a new ambassador to North Korea.

The timing of Liu’s transfer is particularly grabbing attention since China’s leadership is likely to deliver an autographed letter inviting North Korean leader Kim Jong Il through him.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang also backed such a possibility at a regular briefing on Thursday by emphasizing the diplomatic protocol between the two nations.

However, diplomatic circles in Beijing point out that delivering such invitation letter signed by the head of the country through a person who has not been even accredited by the counterpart country is unprecedented.

However, since China is continually sending messages to restore its ties with North Korea and to resume the stalled six-party talks, most pundits believe Liu will somehow serve as a catalyst.