China to Replace Ambassador in Pyongyang

There about six or seven major stories unfolding simultaneously today in US-North Korea and Sino-North Korean diplomacy, but don’t miss this quiet development: China is shuffling its ambassadors on the Korean peninsula.  Liu Xiaoming, the dapper, Anglophone, and American-educated ambassador to the DRPK, seems set to move.  

According to Chosun Ilbo:

Liu Xiaoming, China’s incumbent ambassador to North Korea, who is an expert on U.S. affairs, is being dispatched to London, while Liu Hongcai, a North Korea hand, is being cited as a replacement. 

The fact that Yang’s diplomatic rank is lower than that of the other ambassadors in other parts of Northeast Asia has raised concerns that China is placing less priority on South Korea. But the Chinese Embassy in Seoul on Friday said it was “inappropriate” to take issue with the low rank of the ambassador since there are hardly any high-ranking experts on South Korean affairs in China’s Foreign Ministry.

That’s fascinating on a few levels, but the institutional longevity of China’s strong relations with North Korea here come through: of the high-ranking MFA officials, more have expertise on the DPRK than with South Korea, the country with which diplomatic relations were only established in 1992.

I doubt that this change would delay any possible visit by Kim Jong Il to China, speculation about which gets firmly debunked by Yonhap.

Meanwhile, Asahi Shimbun reports on the new PRC ambassador to Japan, praising the appointment as a sign that Hu Jintao is warming up to the Hatoyama government.

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