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South Korea summons Chinese envoy over Taiwan row

A war of words kicked off between Beijing and Seoul after South Korea’s leader declared Taiwan is a “global issue”

South Korea has summoned China’s ambassador to protest comments made by the country’s Foreign Ministry, which demanded that Seoul stay out of Beijing’s internal affairs after South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol weighed in on the Taiwan issue.

South Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Chang Ho-jin called in Ambassador Xing Haiming on Thursday to voice complaints over a “diplomatic discourtesy” by Beijing, after Chinese officials reacted harshly to a recent interview given to Reuters by South Korea’s leader. 

During the sit-down, President Yoon told the outlet that the Taiwan question “is not simply an issue between China and Taiwan,” but rather “a global issue,” going on to accuse the People’s Republic of seeking to change Taipei’s status by force.

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Beijing considers Taiwan part of its sovereign territory and has not ruled out the use of force to reunify with the island, though it maintains it would like to do so peacefully.

Asked about Yoon’s comments on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin insisted that the dispute over Taiwan “is a matter for the Chinese, who do not need to be told what should or should not be done.”

“The tensions in recent years in the Taiwan Strait are fundamentally caused by ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists,” he added, also urging South Korea to “prudently handle matters related to the Taiwan question.”

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry later denounced Wang’s response as an “unspeakable statement” which “calls into question China’s national integrity.” It argued that Yoon merely reiterated South Korea’s position “that we oppose the change of [Taiwan’s] status quo by force.”

On Friday, Wang said China had also “made serious demarches” to South Korea’s ambassador in Beijing over the diplomatic row, citing Seoul’s “wrong remarks on the Taiwan question.” He again called on South Korea to recognize Chinese sovereignty over the island, adding that he hoped the two countries could “maintain the sound and steady growth of bilateral relations.”

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