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Seoul denies reports of impending visit by Xi Jinping

The South Korean presidential office on Thursday denied reports that Chinese President Xi Jinping has confirmed plans to visit Seoul before the G-20 summit.

A Cheong Wa Dae official was quoted as saying by local media that related reports could not be confirmed and plans for Xi’s visit to Seoul had not been finalized. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin head to the summit meeting in Moscow on Wednesday. Yonhap
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin head to the summit meeting in Moscow on Wednesday. Yonhap

Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also denied the report, but said the two countries are working closely on a matter regarding a “high-level exchange,” though nothing has been confirmed.

JoongAng Ilbo, a local newspaper, had reported that Xi had finalized plans to visit Seoul ahead of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, scheduled for June 28 and 29.

The daily cited unnamed Western diplomatic sources familiar with the matter. It said the decision to visit Seoul was made based on the need to consolidate relations with South Korea.

The newspaper had also cited other unnamed sources as saying that Seoul and Beijing began working on Xi’s visit to Seoul on Monday and that Xi hopes to strengthen relations with Seoul by holding additional summit meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Although Seoul has denied reports that a visit by Xi is in the works, a number of issues have risen as possible agenda items for a Moon-Xi summit, including the China-US trade issue.

While Seoul has mostly stayed clear of the issue, US Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris on Wednesday stressed the importance of security in the fifth-generation network.

“Decisions made today regarding 5G networks will have national security implications for decades,” Harris said in a keynote speech at a conference in Seoul. The comment has been interpreted by local media as indirect pressure on South Korean entities to support the US pressure on Huawei Technologies.

North Korea would also be high on the agenda for a Seoul-Beijing meeting. Since the second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi in February, denuclearization talks have been put on hold, and Pyongyang has shown signs of seeking closer cooperation with China and Russia.

China is also seeking closer relations with Russia. According to media reports, Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed agreements strengthening Beijing-Moscow relations and on cooperating in global affairs.

By Choi He-suk (