(ATTN: ADDS more info at bottom)
By Kim Seung-yeon
SEOUL, Feb. 6 (Yonhap) -- Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming on Thursday clarified his refusal earlier this week to talk about Seoul's entry ban on visitors to the Chinese epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak after the remark sparked criticism about his attitude.
On Tuesday, Xing said in his first press conference after taking office as ambassador to Seoul that he would not evaluate the South Korean government's decision to temporarily ban the entry of people who have visited the city of Wuhan over the past two weeks.
The remark was seen by some as an expression of displeasure with the entry ban, as it came at a time when Beijing has been campaigning against unnecessary travel restrictions over the virus. Some critics even portrayed the remark as a diplomatic gaffe.
But on Thursday, Xing said that was not his intention.
"I meant that as an ambassador of a foreign country, I am not in a position to publicly assess measures taken by the hosting country," Xing told reporters after arriving at Seoul's foreign ministry earlier in the day for a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Kim Gunn.
"I am an ambassador who has a warm heart for South Koreans. I'd appreciate it if you believed that," he said.
Xing also stressed that bilateral efforts between Seoul and Beijing have been under way "through various channels to communicate and to contain, manage and overcome the coronavirus."
"Things are getting much better now. Top-tier scientists say that the situation will be brought under control within a week or the next 10 days," he said.
During the meeting with Kim, the deputy foreign minister, Xing thanked Seoul for its assistance in helping to fight the virus and explained Beijing's efforts to contain the disease, the foreign ministry said in a release.
Kim, in response, offered his condolences regarding Chinese citizens who have died from the virus and expressed hope for the current crisis to be swiftly resolved. He also asked for China's continued cooperation in efforts to secure the safety of South Korean citizens in the neighboring country, the ministry said.
Xing is set to present his credentials to President Moon Jae-in on Friday, along with Japan's new top envoy, Koji Tomita.
Yoon's outreach to Southeast Asia keeps China in the loop
Allies' defense chiefs highlight watertight alliance based on full extended deterrence against N. Korean threats
(News Focus) Police under fire for lax response to emergency calls hours before Itaewon crush
Police under fire for lax response to emergency calls hours before Itaewon crush
Role of administrative authorities questioned in Itaewon disaster