China’s top diplomat Wang Yi says unilateralism, bullying ‘biggest threat’ to global stability

Laura Zhou

Unilateralism and bullying are harming global peace and stability, China’s top diplomat said in Seoul, as Beijing seeks to repair strained relations with South Korea in the face of mounting pressure from the United States.

Speaking during a meeting with his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also called for stronger ties with the traditional US ally that he described as “a close neighbour, a friend and a partner”.

“In the face of an international situation that’s full of uncertainties and in the middle of change unprecedented in a century, neighbours should engage with each other even more, step up cooperation to understand and support each other, to jointly safeguard our legitimate rights and interests, and together play constructive roles in regional peace and stability,” Wang told Kang, according to state-run People’s Daily.

Without mentioning the United States, Wang, who is also China’s state councillor, said the international order had been jeopardised by unilateralism and bullying, which were the “biggest threat” to world peace and stability.

Kang Kyung-wha (second from left) stressed the importance of shared understanding to improve cooperation during the meeting with Wang Yi (right). Photo: AP

Kang responded by stressing the importance of shared understanding to improve cooperation through more high-level exchanges and close communication.

“Through today’s talks, I expect that we can have in-depth exchanges of views on ways to enhance practical cooperation in the economy, environment, culture and people-to-people exchanges, and ways to cooperate over the denuclearisation of the peninsula and the establishment of peace,” she said.

Wang’s remarks during his first visit to Seoul in nearly five years come amid rising tensions between China and the US, the world’s two biggest economies. The US House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill that would impose sanctions against Chinese officials over human rights abuses in Xinjiang, with Beijing threatening to retaliate. It followed China hitting back at US legislation increasing scrutiny of Hong Kong by suspending American military port calls in the city on Monday.

As the rivalry between Beijing and Washington intensifies, other countries fear getting caught in the middle.

Speaking at a Northeast Asia policy forum in Seoul on Tuesday, Kang said South Korea did not want to be forced to take sides.

“Our security alliance with the United States is the linchpin of peace and security on the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia and it will remain so. Our interdependent ties with China are growing in all areas, including in close coordination over the challenges posed by North Korea,” Kang was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

Relations between Beijing and Seoul deteriorated over South Korea’s deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system in 2017, but there have been signs of a thaw in recent months as both sides come under pressure from Washington – China over trade, and South Korea over defence costs.

China’s top diplomat is expected to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday. Photo: EPA-EFE

Wang is expected to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday, while the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry will host Chinese business representatives at a forum on issues including trade and intellectual property protection, according to Yonhap.

Cheong Seong-Chang, a senior researcher with the Sejong Institute in Seoul, said the two sides were also preparing for an expected visit to South Korea by Chinese President Xi Jinping next year.

“Both China and South Korea share a common interest in improving their relations. For China, it needs to amend economic relations with South Korea amid the ongoing trade dispute with the US,” he said. “Improved relations between Seoul and Beijing would help push North Korea back to the table for dialogue.”

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