Anger out of China for Xi’s leaked remark

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Anger out of China for Xi’s leaked remark

China strongly expressed its “discontent” toward the Korean government over a remark made by Democratic Party senior leader Park Jie-won, a diplomatic source told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

The source said the Chinese government contacted the Korean Embassy in Beijing and other diplomatic channels immediately after the remark was reported. China complained that the Korean government shouldn’t have allowed a discussion made in a closed-door diplomatic meeting to be leaked, the source said.

Park, floor leader of the largest opposition party, said Tuesday that China’s Vice President Xi Jinping expressed disapproval of the Lee Myung-bak administration’s hard-line toward North Korea when he met late former President Kim Dae-jung in China in May 2009. Park, a close aide of the former president, was at the meeting. Former President Kim won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his engagement policy toward the North.

Park’s claim immediately drew the ire of the Blue House and the ruling Grand National Party, which called him a liar and said he had harmed the national interest. China’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that Xi did not make the controversial remark.

Xi is considered a frontrunner to succeed President Hu Jintao in 2013, although succession in China is a murky process.

“China in particular showed a strong dissatisfaction that the remark caused direct damage to Xi, confirmed as the next leader for China,” the diplomatic source said. However, China is not considering additional diplomatic measures and considers the fracas an internal issue in Korea, the source said.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry yesterday expressed regret to China for the incident.

“We feel sorry that a recent remark by Democratic Party floor leader Park caused a diplomatic faux pas to a Chinese leader,” a high-ranking official at the Foreign Ministry told Chinese Ambassador to Seoul Zhang Xinsen in a telephone call, according to the ministry.

The beleaguered Park lashed back. “If I point my finger to the moon, they would see the moon, not the finger,” Park said during a party meeting yesterday.


By Kang Chan-ho, Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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