Wen Jiabao

Tough diplomacy on three fronts for China

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 December, 2011, 12:00am


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China faces a difficult week diplomatically as tensions with Seoul flare up. On Tuesday, the South Korean embassy in Beijing was hit by a shot apparently from an air gun. And Beijing is dispatching its largest patrol ship to the East China Sea in a move that is likely to upset Tokyo.

Also, Premier Wen Jiabao's three-day trip to Nepal next week has been cancelled without explanation - which has shocked observers, with Nepalese media describing it as a 'diplomatic debacle'.

The Foreign Ministry declined to say whether Wen's trip to Myanmar, scheduled to follow his visit to Nepal, will be affected.

However, India's Indian Express newspaper reported yesterday that Wen's trip to Myanmar had also been cancelled, quoting Nepal's deputy prime minister, Narayan Kaji Shrestha. 'Premier Wen Jiabao has also cancelled his proposed visit to Myanmar and it only proves that the trip has been cancelled not because of us, but because of the developments in China,' Shrestha said.

Citing a senior Nepalese foreign ministry official, the paper said Beijing was displeased that Kathmandu had disclosed the date of Wen's trip to the media in advance without consulting the Chinese government.

Diplomatic etiquette calls for both sides to announce a trip simultaneously.

Professor Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a political scientist at Baptist University, said the development was 'quite unusual'. However, Zhou Yongsheng, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, said he doubted the trip's cancellation was due to any major issues, and that it would not affect diplomatic ties.

Separately, Seoul yesterday said it had asked Beijing to guarantee the security of its embassy in the capital after a small metal projectile hit a window of the building on Tuesday.

Bilateral tensions are running high after the captain of a Chinese fishing boat stabbed a South Korean coastguard officer to death on Monday, as the former was being detained on suspicion of fishing illegally in South Korean waters.

In the East China Sea, China has sent the 3,980-tonne Haijian 50, its largest patrol ship, on its maiden voyage there to guard its maritime sovereignty and interests, Xinhua reported yesterday.

The Haijian 50 will visit Rixiang Rock, Suyan Rock and the offshore oil and gas fields of Chunxiao and Pinghu, as well as Sino-Japanese joint development zones, Xinhua said.

Jiang Yuechun, a professor at the China Institute of International Studies, a foreign ministry think tank, said the ship's maiden patrol was 'definitely a sovereignty declaration move'.

Professor Ni Lexiong, an expert on China's maritime policy at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said that sending the Haijian 50 to the East China Sea showed Beijing's determination to resolve its territorial disputes with Japan. However, Beijing also wanted to stress that it would not make any concessions on the territorial dispute, so it sent its largest surveillance ship to show its capability to defend China's interests, Ni said.