Senior Chinese diplomat begins Asia visits

By Liu Xin Source: Global Times Published: 2020/8/19 22:04:00

Yang expected to ease China-US tension concerns

Yang Jiechi File photo:CGTN

China's senior diplomat Yang Jiechi kicked off his visit to two countries in Asia on Wednesday, first to Singapore then South Korea, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced. Amid strained China-US ties, Yang's visits are expected to strengthen ties with neighboring and regional countries to seek consensus for a peaceful and stable international environment, and some of them can also be mediators to help defuse regional tensions caused by US' provocations against China, observers said. 

At the invitation of the Singaporean government, Yang, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, began his visit to the city-state on Wednesday. He is scheduled to visit South Korea's Busan on Friday, Chinese FM spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a press conference on Wednesday. 

Given the strained China-US ties and rising concerns over being affected, Singapore, as an important player in Southeast Asia, may play the role of mediator, and Yang's visit to the country would also help the two sides exchange ideas on regional concerns, Zhuang Guotu, head of Xiamen University's Southeast Asian Studies Center, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Zhuang noted Singapore's leader Lee Hsien Loong's previous remarks that the US should stabilize its ties with China, and that Asian countries do not want to pick sides between China and the US. "Lee's words are forward-looking and show his clear understanding of the situation in the region."

Speaking on an online forum of The Atlantic Council in July, Lee said that Singapore and others in Asia are increasingly worried that America's "treating of China as an adversary" could lead to dangerous outcomes. 

During an interview with American businessman David Rubenstein on July 28, Lee said Singapore hopes the US would stabilize its ties with China, since Asia depends on stable ties between the two counties to have a secure and predicable environment to prosper, the Strait Times reported. 

"Worsening China-US ties are not good to overseas Chinese communities, considering that Chinese Singaporeans make up 75 percent of its population," Zhuang said. 

Singapore has long been seen as a combination of oriental and occidental cultures, and admired for its economic and cultural development, which makes it possible for it to mediate between China and the US, Zhuang said. 

Singapore has been chosen several times as the venue for bilateral talks amid tensions. For example, the second meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was held in Singapore in February 2019.   

As a main strategist for ASEAN, Singapore could also mediate China's ties with ASEAN countries, especially on South China Sea issues, considering that the US is intensifying efforts on playing South China Sea cards and using them to start trouble in the region, Zhuang noted. 

Yang's second stop will be Busan, South Korea, his first visit to the neighboring country since July 2018. 

"Unlike a certain country, China and South Korea have maintained good and friendly ties during the pandemic, and have smooth communications over trade, investment and opening green channels for personal exchanges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Topics on deepening cooperation, especially in the post-COVID-19 era, would be an important topic for Yang's visit," said Da Zhigang, director and research fellow of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences and chief expert at Northeast Asian Strategic Studies Institute.

Da told the Global Times that the security of the Korean Peninsula and the region, as well as the international situation, including China-US ties, would also top the agenda. 

Compared to Japan's recent provocations against China, South Korea, another US ally, has not followed the US attacks on China. 

Yang's visit may also help facilitate the top Chinese leader's visit to South Korea, which will reportedly be made by the end of the year, Da said. 

Posted in: DIPLOMACY

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