Chinese in Series of Diplomatic Gaffes in Seoul

A Chinese delegation led by Dai Bingguo, the Chinese state councilor in charge of foreign affairs who visited South Korea on Nov. 27 and met with President Lee Myung-bak to discuss North Korea's attack on Yeonpyeong Island, has become the talk of the town among diplomats in Seoul. A diplomatic source in Seoul on Monday said the Chinese suddenly notified the South Korean Foreign Ministry at 3 p.m. on Nov. 27 that a delegation led by Dai will leave in 15 minutes and hopes to land at Seoul Airport.

The airport in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, is an air force base, and is used for non-military purposes only when heads of state visit the country.

As soon as the delegation arrived, they asked the Foreign Ministry to arrange an audience with Lee the same day, without clearly stating the purpose of the meeting. One source said, "It is against diplomatic protocol to request a meeting with a head of state in such a manner."

China also asked for the meeting with Lee to be confidential. "But then Dai and his delegation brought five reporters and TV cameraman when they turned up at Cheong Wa Dae," another source said, "so Cheong Wa Dae urgently called the South Korean media in." China initially wanted Dai's visit to remain confidential, but Seoul refused, saying the request is inappropriate in this situation.

Dai reportedly gave a tedious hour-long talk on the history of relations between South Korea and China, which offended Lee. Then when Dai called for resumption of six-party nuclear talks, Lee did not say a word. One diplomat said, "After the meeting, Dai out of blue requested a one-on-one meeting with Lee, and said something to Lee while they talked for a moment. Perhaps he was informing Lee of an 'important announcement' China had announced before delivering it later that afternoon, but until that time no mention was made of it. Simply put, the Chinese delegation committed a series of incomprehensible blunders from start to finish."

englishnews@chosun.com / Nov. 30, 2010 13:34 KST