BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping has appointed China’s new ambassador to Iceland, a month after overseas Chinese media reported that the previous envoy had been arrested for passing secrets to Japan.
The announcement by China’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday was the first official confirmation that Beijing had replaced its previous envoy to Iceland, Ma Jisheng. New York-based Chinese language portal Mingjing News reported in September that Ma and his wife had been taken away by Chinese state security earlier this year.
Zhang Weidong, 57, replaces Ma, who was suspected of having become a Japanese spy while working in the Chinese embassy in Tokyo between 2004 and 2008, according to Mingjing News.
China’s Foreign Ministry refused to say in September where its ambassador to Iceland was or who was representing Beijing in the country.
Zhang arrived in Iceland as ambassador on September 25, according to the website of the Chinese embassy in Iceland. He was previously ambassador to Micronesia and the deputy director of the Foreign Affairs Office in southern Guangdong province. He had also worked in Geneva, Canada and Vienna.
Ties between China and Japan have been dogged by decades of mistrust. The two nations, long at loggerheads over what China calls Japan’s failure to atone for atrocities during World War Two, have also been affected by a dispute over ownership of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday sent a ritual offering to Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honors war dead, a move that might complicate his push for a meeting with Xi to improve ties.
Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Nick Macfie