Chinese President Xi congratulates S.Korean President-elect Yoon, stressing joint efforts in deepening ties
Published: Mar 11, 2022 03:56 PM
Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming (left) meets with South Korean president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol at the headquarters of the People Power Party in Seoul on March 11, 2022. Photo: Chinese Embassy to South Korea

Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming (left) meets with South Korean president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol at the headquarters of the People Power Party in Seoul on March 11, 2022. Photo: Chinese Embassy to South Korea

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday sent congratulations to South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol for winning the election and noted that China is willing to work with South Korea to further promote stable relations and to further benefit the peoples from the two countries.

China and South Korea are close neighbors and important partners. After the establishment of diplomatic relations, the bilateral relations have developed quickly, which have benefited the peoples and made positive contributions to the regional and global stability and prosperity, President Xi noted. 

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between China and South Korea. China is willing to deepen cooperation with South Korea to further pro-mote the strategic partnership stably to benefit the two countries and the peoples, Xi said. 

South Korean opposition candidate Yoon Suk-yeol from the conservative People Power Party was elected as South Korea's president on Thursday. With all the votes counted, Yoon had 48.56 percent and Lee Jae-myung of the liberal Democratic Party (DP) took 47.83 percent, Yonhap News reported. The 0.73 percentage-point gap makes this year's election the closest ever.

On Friday, Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming also met with Yoon at PPP's headquarters in Seoul to deliver President Xi's congratulations. During the meeting, Yoon said that he is "certain South Korea-China relations will develop further," Yonhap News reported. 

According to a release from Chinese Embassy in South Korea, Xing and Yoon also exchanged views on the development of bilateral relations. Yoon thanked President Xi and expressed hope to meet with Xi as soon as possible. He also noted that the PPP has always attached great importance to China-South Korea relations and he believes the bilateral relations will be promoted to a higher level. 

"Amid the COVID-19 epidemic, Ambassador Xing went to meet with South Korean president-elect Yoon and resent Chinese President Xi's congratulations, which showed China's sincerity and the great importance it has attached to bilateral relations with the neighbor," Da Zhigang, director of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. 

On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian sent congratulations to Yoon during the daily press briefing. 

Da noted that along with President Xi's congratulation to Yoon, China also expressed the sincere hope to maintain stable bilateral relations despite South Korea's domestic political changes and influence of outside forces. 

Different from the US, which sees Yoon's election as an opportunity to strengthen alliance with Japan and South Korea, China eyes long-term development of bilateral relations with South Korea and the direction to a friendly cooperation will not change no matter which party is in office in South Korea, Da said. 

On Thursday, the US requested a call ahead of schedule between US President Joe Biden and Yoon five hours after Yoon gave his victory speech, a move that analysts said showcased the US' eagerness to take this moment to promote its strategy in using the alliance with Japan and South Korea to contain China.

On Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also held a 15-minute phone call with Yoon and the two agreed to work together to improve ties that have fallen to a historic low, agreeing to hold a face-to-face meeting as early as possible, Nikkei Asia reported. 

During the election campaign, Yoon supported the strengthening of the alliance with the US and Japan. Da noted that it is possible that Japan and South Korea may usher in a period to promote bilateral relations with the US pushing behind after Yoon takes office but whether there will be great progress remains to be seen as too many problems - from history to current - have stuck and the anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea is hard to dispel.

Yoon, 61, is a former prosecutor general and South Korean media noted that his election "could have a profound impact on the direction" the country will take on foreign policy as he takes a hard line on national security and has pledged to deploy additional units of the US THAAD anti-missile system. Such a deployment had been opposed by the Chinese government over concerns of its own security and had led to outrage toward South Korea among the Chinese.

Responding to speculations that China-South Korea relations may encounter major changes after Yoon takes office, some Chinese analysts voiced different views and noted that slogans and some remarks made during campaign may have been made just to attract public attention. But a national leader will put forward policies out of the interests of the people and the country and stable relations with China fits the interests of South Korea. 

Lü Chao, an expert on the Korean Peninsula issue at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that he did not see the reason for China-South Korea relations to have a turning point. The overall trend is generally developing in a direction of mutual benefits, in poli-tics, economic cooperation or on the Korean Peninsula issue. 

Da noted that Yoon will bring some changes in the bilateral relations between China and South Korea as it remains to be seen whether the relations will withstand the test and the two countries can properly solve their small frictions and whether South Korea will choose one side and follow the US. 

"But China has the confidence in the foundations of good relations with South Korea and will maintain strategic focus in dealing with any changes. Moreover, these changes are also an opportunity for China to make preparations for more complicated situation around it," Da said.