China’s lack of decorumA senior Chinese military official lambasted the United States during a diplomatic meeting with visiting South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin. During the meeting, Chen Bingde, the Chinese chief of general staff, spent some 10 minutes censoring Washington. He more or less invited a guest and criticized his friend to his face, showing a complete lack of diplomatic decorum.
Chen said that the U.S. orders other countries around, yet doesn’t listen to other countries. In the presence of reporters, he accused the U.S. of acting as a hegemonic power in every way. If he had any respect for the South Korean minister, he would not have made such am outburst in public. Moreover, he is below the defense minister in military rank.
Chen said he felt frustrated when talking with U.S. officials and added that Kim would have felt the same despite Korea’s close ties to the country. He comments implied that South Korea is a subordinate of the U.S. By criticizing our ally, Chen in fact made future talks difficult. He should have taken his comments directly to U.S. officials. But he did no such thing when he met with Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had visited Beijing a day earlier. We cannot but suspect his disrespect for South Korean officials.
Kim responded coolly to Chen’s tirade and the meeting went smoothly overall, South Korean defense ministry officials said. Beijing’s role and support is imperative to contain North Korea’s provocations and resolve the nuclear problem. Sino-North Korean ties have never been closer and the two countries recently celebrated 50 years of their security alliance.
We inevitably have to be discreet in addressing China. Nevertheless, we should not tolerate actions and comments that go beyond common sense. We also should not appear feeble.
In his meeting with his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie, Kim agreed to hold regular senior-level strategy meetings. The first Seoul-Beijing defense meeting since North Korea’s two deadly attacks against a South Korean naval ship and inhabited island was successful in that it renewed cooperation in the area of security. But if China does not respect South Korea as an equal security partner, the exchange of words in meetings will be in vain. The incident has again underscored that China has a long way to go before it becomes a respected leader in the global community. If it really wants the same respect and influence as the U.S., it should learn basic diplomatic manners first.