Foreign Affairs

China’s New Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs

Who is he?

Kong Xuanyou is China’s new Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs. He replaces the retiring Wu Dawei, who had held the position since its creation in 2010 and led the Chinese delegation to the Six-Party Talks since August 2004.

Kong is an experienced diplomat having worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China for 32 years. Kong has previously served as a part of the Chinese negotiating team during the Six-Party Talks which ran from 2003 to 2008. He served on the team under representative Wang Yi in the first through third rounds of talks. For the fourth and fifth rounds of talks he served on the team under Wu Dawei.

BEIJING, CHINA: General view of the six-party talks meeting at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, July 26, 2005. Photo credit: GUANG NIU/AFP/Getty Images

Special Representative Kong has a broad depth of knowledge in Asian regional issues. Most recently since 2015, in his position as an Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, he was in charge of Asian regional issues, law of the sea and territorial disputes, treaty law, and consular issues. Before that he served as Director-General of the Department of Asian Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2014 to 2015. His main duties during that time included implementation of national diplomatic policies, research and planning for laws involving China and sovereignty regions, bilateral relationships, and foreign treaty negotiations. Kong also worked as Deputy Director-General in this department from 2003 to 2005, and First Secretary and Division Director from 1999 to 2000. Prior to being appointed to the position of Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he served as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam from 2011 to 2014.

Kong has also worked extensively in Japan, having served in the Chinese Embassy as Minister from 2006 to 2011, and Minister-Counselor from 2005 to 2006. Kong is known for his close relationship with Foreign Minister Wang Yi. They worked together at the Chinese Consulate in Japan from 2005-2007 and before that, Kong served as Second Secretary and First Secretary in the embassy from 1995 to 1999. He was also a staff member and consulate attaché to the Chinese Consulate-General in Osaka from 1985 to 1989.

Kong received a B.A. in Japanese from Shanghai International Studies University in 1983 and studied in the Department of Diplomacy at the China Foreign Affairs University from 1983 to 1985. He is an ethnic Korean from Heilongjiang province and speaks fluent Japanese and Korean.

Why is he in the news?

On August 14, 2017, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially confirmed Kong Xuanyou had been appointed as the new Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs of China.

Kong has garnered media attention in China because of the similarity between his career path and that of the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and the Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai. All three of these diplomats specialized in Japanese language and had extensive experience working with Chinese ambassadors to Japan.

What can we expect from him?

While the Six-Party Talks have been suspended since 2008, Kong’s deep involvement in Asian issues and his diplomatic service in Japan (having worked with three former Chinese ambassadors to Japan – Wang Yi, Cui Tiankai and Cheng Yonghua), coupled with his previous experience of working with Wu Dawei will be an asset. In addition to previously participating in the Six-Party Talks, Kong has on numerous occasions in his various positions headed up diplomatic talks with counterparts from North Korea, South Korea, and Russia.