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Foreign minister’s remark siding with China under fire

Foreign minister’s remark siding with China under fire

Posted September. 24, 2021 08:38,   

Updated September. 24, 2021 08:49


South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong described the U.S.-led initiative to create an alliance consisting of the country’s allies, including South Korea, Japan, and Australia, against China as an “old-style Cold War mentality.” He also responded that it is “only natural” for China to employ “assertive diplomacy,” which is harshly criticized by the U.S. Coming as the Biden administration has begun in earnest to check China’s influence, the foreign minister’s remark quickly drew criticism for seemingly siding with China on the American soil.

Chung, currently visiting the U.S. in attendance on President Moon Jae-in for the United Nations General Assembly, said that it was “only natural” for China to become more assertive for the past few years, in a conversation meeting hosted by New York-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). “China has become an economic superpower, and China today is not the same as China 20 years ago. It is natural for China to capitalize on its presence to gain a competitive edge in diplomacy, and I am unsure whether ‘assertiveness’ is the appropriate term to describe China’s diplomatic posture,” said Foreign Minister Chung. “China seeks to reflect its view as a member of global community, and we need to pay attention to what China is trying to say.”

When Fareed Zakaria, the host of CNN’s GPS and the moderator of the event, described the U.S., South Korea, Japan, and Australia as one bloc in opposition to China in his illustration of the diplomatic landscape of the Indo-Pacific, Foreign Minister Chung said such distinction is “the outdated mentality of Cold War,” as declared by China. Asked whether to join the Quad, the U.S.’s strategic forum in the Indo-Pacific to contain China, Foreign Minister Chung said that South Korea does not feel the urgent need to join the forum and that it is not necessarily mandated to choose between U.S. and China.

Ji-Sun Choi aurinko@donga.com