Beijing consults Seoul on Hong Kong security law

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Beijing consults Seoul on Hong Kong security law

China recently shared with Korea information on its push for a controversial national security law for Hong Kong, apparently to seek Seoul’s support amid escalating tensions between Beijing and Washington.  
 
An official of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul told the JoongAng Ilbo Tuesday that after China's National People's Congress kicked off on May 21, Beijing’s Foreign Ministry shared the proposed law for Hong Kong “with the Korean government at various levels including its Foreign Ministry, determining that it is a matter of global interest.”
 
The proposed law, which will ban acts of “secession, subversion or terrorism” that threaten national security, has raised concerns in the United States of erosion of Hong Kong's rights.  
 
Last Thursday, Morgan Ortagus, the U.S. State Department spokesperson, said, "Any effort to impose national security legislation that does not reflect the will of the people of Hong Kong […] would be met with strong condemnation from the United States and the international community.”
 
Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming said in an interview with China’s state-run CCTV on Sunday that Seoul and Beijing “respect each other’s positions on key issues as neighbors,” adding that the Hong Kong issue is no exception.    
 
He added that China will explain to Korea the national security law in detail and trusts that Beijing will gain Seoul’s “understanding and support.”
 
This could put Seoul in a difficult position between the two superpowers, which are sparring over trade and diplomatic matters amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But analysts say Seoul is likely to remain low-key without choosing sides.
 
“We cannot confirm the specific details of the matter,” a Korean Foreign Ministry official said. “The Korean and Chinese governments always closely communicate. We are observing the related situation with interest.”  
 
Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is set to take part in a strategic coordination meeting on foreign affairs on Thursday that will address policy challenges stemming from Sino-U.S. tensions, among other regional matters.  
 
The meeting is expected to bring up the so-called Economic Prosperity Network, the U.S.-led economic bloc initiative creating an alliance of “trusted” partners to counter China’s supply networks, as well as Beijing’s newly proposed security law for Hong Kong.
 
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on April 29 that the U.S. government is working with countries including South Korea, Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand and Vietnam to restructure the global supply chain.  
 
Keith Krach, the U.S. under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, said in a teleconference on May 20 that the Economic Prosperity Network will be “comprised of countries, companies and civil society organizations that are anchored in trust and that operate by a set of trust principles,” adding, “Those that don’t are likely unreliable as partners and pose a threat to stability.”
 
He described it as a “network for all areas of economic collaboration that work under a set of trust principles” in commerce, trade, digital, energy, infrastructure, education, research and health care, and that the “operating principles” are democratic values such as transparency, integrity, accountability and respect for rule of law and sovereignty.  
 
Krach added that Washington sees a “great opportunity” with Korea in this initiative, and that he had discussed the initiative with Korean officials during a senior economic dialogue in Seoul last November.
 
Christopher Ford, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said in the same teleconference that the United States will “increasingly look to genuinely trusted suppliers” outside of these Chinese tech companies such as Huawei, adding that would “create opportunities for those kinds of trusted suppliers around the world,” such as Samsung in Korea.
 
BY BAEK HEE-YOUN, SARAH KIM   [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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