Chinese envoy taking long holiday from Seoul

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Chinese envoy taking long holiday from Seoul

Chinese Ambassador to Seoul Zhang Xinsen is away on a long vacation, the JoongAng Ilbo reported yesterday citing diplomatic sources, at a time when South Korea and China are blaming each other for not doing enough to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

“Ambassador Zhang is spending vacation in China for the 22nd day from Dec. 6 and is expected to return to Seoul around mid-January,” the source told the JoongAng Ilbo on Monday.

In fact, Zhang was in South Korea briefly, when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade held a ceremony for the signing of an agreement on setting up a Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat among South Korea, Japan and China on Dec. 16.

According to the source, Zhang informed the ministry before the event that he could not attend, saying he was on vacation.

“But [Zhang] flew back to Seoul a day prior to the event after Foreign Ministry officials told him it would make little sense for the Chinese Ambassador to Korea being absent at a meeting attended by Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan for Korea and [Ambassador] Masatoshi Muto for Japan,” the source said. “He went back to China immediately after the event.”

After North Korea’s deadly shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 23, Seoul and Washington demanded that China play a more active role in reigning in its communist ally. From its side, China has urged restraint on Seoul’s part.

A South Korean government official denied that Zhang’s vacation is motivated by diplomatic reasons, saying a vacation lasting more than a month is customary for Chinese ambassadors.

“As far as I know,” the official said, “it is not to express dissatisfaction with a conflict between South Korea and China regarding the recent North Korean issues.”

By Kang Chan-ho []
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