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(LEAD) White House: Korea has been independent for thousands of years

All News 05:53 April 22, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with background; minor edits)
By Chang Jae-soon and Shim In-sung

WASHINGTON, April 21 (Yonhap) -- The White House said Friday it is well aware that Korea has been "independent for thousands of years," after President Donald Trump quoted Chinese President Xi Jinping as claiming, falsely, that Korea used to be part of China.

"We generally do not comment on the details of what is said between the President and other leaders. We know well that Korea has been independent for thousands of years," Michael Anton, deputy assistant to the president for strategic communications, told Yonhap News Agency.

(LEAD) White House: Korea has been independent for thousands of years - 1

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, Trump talked about his discussions with Xi during their first summit meetings in Florida that Trump hoped to use to get China to exercise more of its influence over North Korea to rein in the provocative regime.

Trump said that after he urged Xi to rein in the North, Xi "went into the history of China and Korea."

"And you know, you're talking about thousands of years ... and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China. And after listening for 10 minutes, I realized that it's not so easy," Trump said during the interview.

Even if Trump was simply relying what Xi told him, the comment still sparked concern and outrage among South Koreans not only because they saw Xi's claim as an attempt to undermine Korean sovereignty but also because it could mean that Trump could be misunderstanding the history of a key ally.

Friday's White House comment was seen as an effort to calm such concern.

South Korea has rejected Xi's reported claim as historically untrue and not worthy of a response.

China's Foreign Ministry declined to clarify whether Xi actually made the remark.

Asked to confirm the reports during a regular press briefing in Beijing earlier this week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang didn't provide an answer and only said, "There is nothing for South Koreans to worry about."


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