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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 2)

All News 07:09 January 02, 2017

Lowly Chinese envoy muddies bilateral ties

Chen Hai, deputy director general in the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Asia affairs department, recently made an uninvited visit to Korea to meet opposition lawmakers and representatives of companies working in China.

Chen lobbied for Rep. Park Jie-won, leader of the opposition People's Party, and other parliamentarians, to oppose the deployment of the U.S.-made Terminal High-altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system against North Korea's growing missile threat. China has vehemently opposed the deployment, arguing that it can be used to spy on its military installations deep inside the country.

To Samsung, which has an extensive production and retail network, and retailer Lotte, which is being retaliated against for offering the THAAD site, Chen's unequivocal message is that they could face more disadvantages, unless their government changes its mind.

The Foreign Ministry asked Chen to delay his visit until January, citing the usual diplomatic protocols that apply toward the end of the year and complicated domestic politics. Chen ignored the request and did not bother to pay a courtesy visit to the ministry.

The ministry said it did not officially raise an issue over Chen's wayward behavior because he met people with whom he has been acquainted with since his days as charges de affaires in Korea.

Depending on how Chen's visit is looked at, it is not just a matter of indulging a low-ranking envoy, who acted out of his depth, being encouraged by his equally rambunctious and boorish government.

First, considering that Chen's act undermines the government's official stance ― prompt THAAD deployment ― it is worth delving into the legal grounds to see whether it fits the general category for sabotage by a foreigner or, more specifically, qualifies as an outright act of recruiting influential people such as lawmakers to achieve their national interests. There is a specific word for that ― a spy.

Park and other lawmakers should know that they are on the other side of the deal, so they should ponder how their meetings with Chen could play into Beijing's hands. The lawmakers should appreciate their added responsibility with the government in its caretaker mode after the presidential impeachment.

Because Chen enjoys diplomatic immunity, the ministry should see if his action merits him being designated persona non grata to warn China or any other hegemonic countries against belittling our sovereignty and dignity.

China has been using all its methods ― pressuring Korean firms in China, clamping the flow of its tourists and making open existential threats ― to stop Korea from its THAAD plan.

Korea has repeatedly told Beijing that the THAAD decision can be reversed, if China dissuades Pyongyang, its beneficiary, to stop its belligerent behavior.

Korea should stick to its stance and show that our country will not condone China's inappropriate acts.

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