China envoy wins quick approval by government
Normally, it takes a month before a country approves the designation of new foreign diplomats.
Zhang is the highest ranking official in the Chinese Foreign Ministry to be named as the ambassador to Seoul since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992. China, a strong ally of North Korea, has been sending vice-ministerial-level diplomats to the North, and relatively low-profile envoys to the South.
A South Korean Foreign Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the ministry will quickly notify China of Zhang’s endorsement. The official also said that Seoul decided to move rapidly because the top post at the Chinese embassy has been vacant since former Ambassador Cheng Yonghua left last month.
The Chinese government endorsed the appointment of Yu Woo-ik, then the South’s ambassador-designate to Beijing, in 17 days last November.
“It will be an honor to serve as the ambassador to South Korea. I will work to further improve Seoul-Beijing relations during my tenure,” Zhang said to South Korean foreign minister Yu Myung-hwan yesterday. Yu was in Shanghai to examine preparations for the World Expo 2010, which is scheduled to take place in May, and check conditions for a possible visit by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
A diplomatic source in Seoul said Zhang welcomed and escorted Yu around the expo site.
“It seems Zhang is returning thanks to the South Korean foreign minister in response to warm hospitality that Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping received from then-South Korean ambassador-designate Yu [Woo-ik] during Xi’s visit to Seoul last December,” the source said.
“We expect that President Lee could visit the opening ceremony of the World Expo,” Zhang said to the South Korean foreign minister.
Yu is scheduled to have talks today with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi, focusing on how to bring the North back to six-party nuclear disarmament negotiation table. Yu will also meet Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
Zhang graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, known for producing top diplomats, and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
By Kang Chan-ho [email@example.com]