South Korea's foreign ministry said Thursday that it is working to confirm reports that Chinese leader Xi Jinping told U.S. President Donald Trump that Korea "used to be a part of China."
"We are working to confirm the reports through diverse diplomatic channels including the United States and China," Cho June-hyuck, foreign ministry spokesman, said at a regular press briefing. "As soon as detailed facts are confirmed, (the government) will make the necessary response."
The controversy was sparked after it was revealed that Trump quoted Xi as saying during their first summit earlier this month that Korea "used to be a part of China."
Trump made the remark while sharing what was discussed during the summit in a March 12 interview with the Wall Street Journal. The quote was not included in the article but the WSJ later posted the full transcript online.
In the transcript, Trump quoted Xi as saying, "He then went into the history of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you're talking about thousands of years... and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China."
It is not clear if and in what context Xi said so, nor is it certain whether it is an accurate quote or an error that possibly occurred in the process of interpretation.
The reported remark is still causing quite a stir in South Korea, with major political parties calling for efforts to confirm what actually happened.
On Wednesday, the foreign ministry dismissed the remark as historically untrue and not worthy of a response.
"Whether that is true or not, Korea hasn't been a part of China for thousands of years and it is an historical fact that the international community acknowledges and no one can deny it," a foreign ministry official said on the condition of anonymity. "It is worthless to respond to this kind of story."
China's foreign ministry declined to clarify whether Xi actually made the remark.
Asked to confirm the reports during a regular press briefing in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang didn't provide an answer and only said, "There is nothing for South Koreans to worry about."
"The heads of the U.S. and China exchanged their views deeply and sufficiently on the issues facing the Korean Peninsula during their summit in Florida and related things have already been disclosed in time," he added. (Yonhap)