Dong-A Ilbo, South Korea
China Appoints 'Pro-U.S.' Ambassador to North Korea

September 9, 2006

Soth Korea - Dong-A Ilbo - Original Article (English)

Liu Xiaoming, one of China's
'American hands,' heads is
bounf for Pyongyang.


Drawing tremendous attention, China has appointed a diplomatic expert on the United States as its new ambassador to Pyongyang. On Thursday, Chinese President Hu Jintao appointed the 50-year-old assistant governor of Gansu Province, Liu Xiaoming RealVideo. The Chinese media, including the Xinhua News Agency, reported in chorus that Liu had never before served in any department dealing with North Korea nor the Korean Peninsula

But while Liu has no experience in regard to the Korean Peninsula, he does have extensive experience in U.S. affairs. This is the first time that China has sent a U.S. specialist to the North as an ambassador.

Since earning his Master's Degree at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Foreign Affairs in 1983, he has mainly worked for the Chinese Embassy in Washington and the North American and Oceania Affairs Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). So far, Liu's time in non U.S.-related posts has amounted to a mere five years; two years and seven months as assistant governor of Gansu Province; four months as a MOFA staff member; and two years and one month as Chinese ambassador to Egypt.

Notably, he is the first Chinese ambassador to North Korea born after the Korean War. Unlike Liu, his predecessors in the post such as present ambassador Wu Donghe were born in the 1930s or 40s, and experienced the China-North Korea honeymoon.

[Editor's Note: North Korea was officially established in 1948, under the supervision of the occupying Soviet forces. Large amounts of Chinese influence began in 1949 RealVideo].

Analysts agree that such a dramatic change reflects China's efforts to take a fresh approach to core diplomatic issues such as North Korea's nuclear program and its missile testing.

Those familiar with the issue say that the appointment demonstrates Beijing's intention to untangle issues that involve North Korea and the United States. Some observers also predict that relations between China and North Korea, which are often characterized as a "blood-pledge," are now due for a change.

North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-il: If wishes to
discuss the U.S., he will soon have a Chinese
ambassador on hand capable of filling him in.


China is a nation the requires a number of decades of fast but stable growth to become an advanced nation. Given this, Beijing simply cannot ignore or reject American demands in regard to North Korea's nuclear program, since the U.S. remains the world's greatest economic and military power. In other words, it appears that Beijing, which until now has offered only "carrots" to Pyongyang, is now likely to use some "sticks" as well.

"The appointment of Liu signals a shift in Chinese diplomacy in regard to North Korea," said the Wen Wei Po Daily, a Hong Kong-based newspaper.

The timing of Liu's transfer is grabbing particular attention, because Liu is likely to be the deliverer of a signed letter from China's leadership inviting North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to Beijing. At a regular briefing on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang reiterated the likelihood of this.

Within Chinese diplomatic circles, the discussion is about the unprecedented step of having someone who has yet to be accredited as ambassador to the receiving country, delivering such an invitation signed by the inviting nation's head of state.