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Ex-security adviser Kim Jang-soo named as ambassador to China

Ex-security adviser Kim Jang-soo named as ambassador to China

Posted February. 16, 2015 07:21,   


It is said that the nomination of former national security adviser Kim Jang-soo as ambassador to China is quite unprecedented. It is the first time that an official with a military background is named as an ambassador to major four nations since Yoo Byung-hyun, former chairman of South Korea`s Joint Chiefs of Staff, served as the ambassador to America during the administration of former soldier-turned President Chun Doo-hwan. It is also noted that the nomination came at a time when Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) is a highly contentious issue in South Korea-America and South Korea-China relations.

○ THAAD, the biggest issue put to the test

It is expected that the most difficult test for the ambassador nominee is how Kim will handle the issue of THAAD. Majority of experts reckon that on the flip-side of the nomination of an official with a military background as the ambassador to China lies multi-dimensional deliberation.

“South Korea has neither requested nor consulted on the deployment of THAAD with America,” said current Ambassador to China Kwon Young-se, reconfirming the stance of South Korean government. China, however, has openly and repeatedly made warnings over the THAAD issue, one of which was expressed by China`s Defence Minister Chang Wanquan. During his official visit to Seoul on Feb. 4, the Chinese minister said, “The relationship between China and South Korea will be strained if THAAD is deployed in the Korean Peninsula.” Apparently, China believes that it has detected unusual development occurring between South Korea and the U.S.

The U.S. said, “No consultations are under way about the controversial THAAD system.” But the statements, such as “Missile defense system including THAAD would be aimed at addressing threats posed by North Korea (U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken)” and “We have finished site investigation and unofficial discussion is ongoing (a Pentagon spokesman)," have raised China’s suspicion against THAAD. Diplomatic sources see that the new order of the day when Kim starts his post would be to narrow the gap in different understanding between the U.S. and China.

○ Flexible relations between China and North Korea to be noted

The year 2015 requires close observation and precise measures for China and North Korea relations. Although the relations between the two have been chilled since Pyongyang’s 3rd nuclear test in February 2013, signs of subtle changes are appearing up for “the 70th anniversary of the victory of World War II.” When First Secretary of the Workers` Party of North Korea Kim Jong Un makes a visit to Russia in May and Pyongyang-Moscow relations become closer swiftly, China would no longer remain in the past of “nuclear test and execution of Jang Song Thaek.” This is why the possibility of North Korean high-ranking official’s visit to China is being raised. Against this backdrop of North Korea’s thawing relations with China and Russia, the role of South Korean ambassador to China becomes important. When and if the North exhibits provocative behavior such as its 4th nuclear test, it is the ambassador’s responsibility to enlist active cooperation from China, such as sanctions against the North.

The government of South Korea boasts “the closest relations since the diplomatic ties with China." When Seoul is having the worst relationship ever with Tokyo, however, it is not optional but essential to foster Seoul-Beijing relations as Seoul would be left in the wretched conditions if Beijing chooses Tokyo, not Seoul.

It should also be noted how Washington interprets the nomination of Kim Jang-soo as the ambassador to China. “It is concerned that the U.S. was as much surprised as China was on the news,” says a senior diplomat in Seoul. Washington’s suspicion that Seoul has put more importance on Beijing since the inauguration of the Park Geun-hye administration could be fueled by the nomination.