South Korean skaters spark diplomatic protest by China
Feb 2, 2007, 7:20 GMT
Beijing - China has called in South Korean diplomats to protest against political signs displayed by South Korean skaters during a medal ceremony at the ongoing Asian Winter Games, the foreign ministry said on Friday.
The five women short-track skaters held up signs saying 'Mount Paektu is our territory,' referring to a mountain range that straddles the border between China and North Korea.
'The behaviour of the relevant South Korean personnel has hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, and violates the Olympic spirit and the rules of the Asian Olympic Council,' the ministry said in a statement posted on its website.
'The Chinese side is strongly dissatisfied and requests the Korean side to investigate the incident and take appropriate measures to ensure that similar incidents can be avoided,' it said.
It said the South Korean delegation to the winter games had apologised for the incident, which occurred on Wednesday during the presentation of a silver medal to the South Korean 5,000-metres relay team in the northeastern Chinese city of Changhchun.
A South Korean foreign ministry official on Friday urged China to 'respond in a composed manner' to the dispute, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said.
'Our government's position is that this incident is an accidental happening and shouldn't be interpreted politically,' the agency quoted the unnamed official as saying.
Mount Paektu, which is known as Changbaishan in Chinese, is the mythical origin of the Korean people.
But South Korean media have reported that China may be trying to dilute the Korean history of the area.
On Thursday, Yonhap reported that 18 primary and secondary schools on the Chinese side of the border were recently renamed Changbaishan, 'raising concerns by Koreans that Beijing is trying to claim its historical sovereignty over Korea's ancient kingdom which ruled north-east China for over 700 years'.
North Korea signed an agreement in the 1960s to give China about half of the area covered by Mount Paektu to China.
'The Chinese fear a unified Korea might try to nullify the agreement,' Yonhap said.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur