Beijing doesn’t ‘condone’ talk of South Korea developing nukes: Chinese envoy
China’s top diplomat in Seoul calls for ‘denuclearization and peaceful negotiation’ after North Korean missile tests
Ethan Jewell October 26, 2022
Then-South Korean president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol on April 10, 2022 (left) and Chinese leader Xi Jinping | Images: Yoon’s campaign team; Kremlin
China does “not condone” talk of South Korea developing nuclear weapons as North Korea prepares for a possible seventh nuclear test, Beijing’s ambassador to Seoul said Wednesday.
“Whenever there is trouble on the peninsula, there are nuclearization talks,” Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming told reporters Wednesday. “China’s position on this has always been denuclearization and peaceful negotiation.”
Xing’s statement came after conservative lawmakers called earlier this month for Seoul to deploy tactical nuclear weapons and amid increasing talk about South Korea starting its own nuclear program, partially in response to North Korea’s preparations for a seventh nuclear test.
“Therefore, we also oppose recent discussions in South Korea about acquiring nuclear weapons, and I am not the only person opposed to this,” Xing added.
Polling has long shown strong support in South Korea for an indigenous nuclear weapons program.
In recent years, Beijing has defended much of North Korea’s military actions as legitimate measures to counter what the country sees as U.S. aggression in the region. This includes vetoing a recent U.S.-led resolution at the U.N. to impose additional sanctions on North Korea for testing multiple long-range missiles capable of striking major population centers.
The ambassador’s reference to “trouble,” however, appears to be an increasingly rare acknowledgment from Beijing that North Korea’s artillery and missile drills contribute to regional tensions.
The last few weeks have seen both Koreas flaunt their military might in tit-for-tat fashion. According to NK Pro’s Missile Tracker, North Korea has conducted nine missile tests since late September; South Korea, meanwhile, has responded with a host of military drills with the U.S. and Japan.
Just this week, ROK and DPRK forces traded warning shots after a North Korean merchant vessel entered disputed waters west of the peninsula.
During China’s 20th party congress last week, General Secretary Xi Jinping delivered a two-hour speech in which he decried “interference in other countries’ internal affairs” and the “Cold War mentality,” though he did not mention any countries by name.
In a letter congratulating Xi for securing a third term, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he sees a “beautiful future” for ties between their countries. A seventh nuclear test would likely strain bilateral relations, however, as they did in 2017 when the DPRK last tested a nuclear device.
Yeji Chung contributed to this article. Edited by Arius Derr.