April 12 (UPI) -- China's former ambassador to Britain has been named Beijing's new envoy for Korean Peninsula Affairs, the Chinese foreign ministry said.
Liu Xiaoming, 65, was appointed to the position left vacant since May 2019, when Chinese diplomat Kong Xuanyou was named China's ambassador to Japan, South Korean news agency Yonhap and KBS reported Monday.
The appointment comes after South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong met with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in the southern Chinese city of Xiamen. Wang reportedly expressed a willingness to play an active role in the Korean Peninsula peace process, according to Yonhap.
China left the position vacant for nearly two years. Luo Zhaohui, a vice minister of foreign affairs, has been in charge of Korean Peninsula matters in Beijing during the interim period.
Luo has kept a low profile, but before the coronavirus pandemic, he met with U.S. North Korea negotiator Stephen Biegun in Beijing in December 2019, when the former Trump administration may have been seeking a path to talks after the collapse of a leaders' summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Luo said in 2019 relevant countries should "exercise restraint" and "find ways to address their reasonable concerns through dialogue and negotiation."
Moon Il-hyun, a South Korean professor at China University of Political Science and Law, told Yonhap that China is "actively responding" to changes being made under the Biden administration.
Liu's appointment also is a follow-up measure to the meeting of the Chinese and South Korean foreign ministers in early April, Moon said.
In 2017, Liu wrote an editorial published in The Telegraph that claimed China does not hold the "master key" to the "North Korean crisis," after former President Donald Trump threatened "fire and fury" against North Korea.
"China is ready to help, but you cannot put out a fire if someone continues to pour oil over it -- or find fault with or even frustrate firefighting efforts," Liu said at the time.