August 14, 2020 12:39
Senior Chinese official Yang Jiechi plans a visit next week to Korea, which is under growing pressure to join various U.S. initiatives to keep China in check.
Yang is a powerful Politburo member and director of the Communist Party’s Office of Foreign Affairs. The unexpected visit amid the protracted coronavirus epidemic has raised speculation that Beijing may be seeking to rally allies as its conflict with the U.S. intensifies.
“The two governments are fine-tuning the schedule of the visit,” a government source here said Thursday. The source added that Yang will meet President Moon Jae-in as well as national security adviser Suh Hoon and National Intelligence Service chief Park Jie-won.
The visit comes shortly after the U.S. lifted restrictions on Korea using solid fuel for rockets and amid ramped-up defense plans here including a nuclear-powered submarine.
Deputy national security adviser Kim Hyun-chong, who spearheaded the latest missile talks with the U.S., told KBS News recently, “Our regional neighbors [like China] have scores of reconnaissance satellites, but we have zero. This is solely a matter and decision for ourselves.”
Last month, President Moon Jae-in voiced his intention to “attain complete missile sovereignty” by asking the U.S. to lift the 800-km limit on the range of ballistic missiles lifted as well.
Yang is also expected to discuss a visit to Korea by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which had been anticipated in the first half of this year but was postponed due to the virus and China’s interventions in Hong Kong.
The Moon administration is for some reason obsessed with persuading Xi to visit, perhaps to iron out any remaining glitches after an unofficial Chinese boycott over the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery spat or to gain leverage in stalled inter-Korean relations.
Yang’s visit also comes after China protested against the U.S. government sending Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to Taiwan. Azar is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan since Washington severed official ties with Taipei in 1979 in favor of Beijing.
China considers Taiwan a renegade province.
Yang could also seek Korean support in the U.S.’ war on top Chinese businesses like Huawei and video-sharing platform Tik Tok.