A top Chinese envoy on Friday acknowledged South Korea’s “dissatisfaction” with China’s policy toward North Korea, but asked for Seoul’s understanding over Beijing’s reluctance to punish Pyongyang.
Chinese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) also suggested that China and South Korea should stand side by side in pushing Japan to face up to its aggressive militaristic past.
Zhang was wrapping up a three-day visit to Seoul that included talks with South Korean president-elect Park Geun-hye.
During their meeting on Thursday, Park had stressed the need for South Korea and China to send a “clear and consistent” message to North Korea to abide by its international responsibilities.
Seoul is known to be frustrated with China’s reluctance to approve expanded UN sanctions against Pyongyang for its long-range rocket launch last month, which most of the world saw as a disguised ballistic missile test.
“I understand some South Korean friends are dissatisfied with China’s policy toward the North, but I ask them to understand China’s difficulties as well,” Zhang said on Friday.
China is North Korea’s sole major ally and has argued that pushing Pyongyang into a corner could provoke a reaction that would destabilize the Korean Peninsula and the wider region.
Separately, Zhang urged Japan to avoid a nationalist shift under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“If Japan walks a dangerous path, it will significantly hurt cooperation between China, Korea and Japan,” Zhang said.
Beijing and Seoul are involved in separate territorial disputes with Tokyo and both have long criticized Japan for failing to show enough contrition for the abuses of its military expansionist past.
“Korea and China should stand up on this issue of history and express their positions,” Zhang said.
There is still widespread public resentment in South Korea over Japan’s colonial rule and the plight of Korean women who were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers.