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Chinese FM Wang Yi may visit South Korea this month: report

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (Yonhap)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (Yonhap)

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi may visit South Korea later this month for talks on bilateral cooperation and to discuss Chinese President Xi Jinping’s planned visit to Seoul, according to media reports Monday.

Citing diplomatic sources, the report said Seoul and Beijing officials have been in talks to arrange Wang’s visit to happen within this month, around his reported trip to Japan.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, however, declined to confirm the report, adding the two countries are continuously communicating over the matter. “Nothing has been decided in regards to the visit,” a ministry official said.

Wang was seeking to visit Seoul in October, but the potential trip has been put on hold due to conflicting schedules.

If Wang’s trip is realized, the top diplomat is expected to meet his counterpart, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, to discuss the possibility of Chinese President Xi’s visit here.

Xi was set to visit Seoul in the first half of this year, but the trip was delayed upon the outbreak of COVID-19.

Reports say Xi’s visit to Korea is imminent, probably at the end of this month or in December.

Sources say Beijing is keen on fixing the schedule for Xi’s visit in a bid to strengthen bilateral ties with Korea, as Beijing’s relations with other countries in the region, including Japan and India, have further deteriorated recently, as well as to strengthen cooperation amid the incoming Joe Biden administration in the US.

Seoul has also been putting efforts forward for Xi’s visit to happen, as it is widely expected to bring about a thaw in Seoul-Beijing relations that have been chilly since Korea’s decision to host a US-made advanced missile system in the country in 2017. While President Moon Jae-in has visited China twice since he took office in 2017, Xi has yet to make a reciprocal visit.

The Foreign Ministry here said the two sides are continuing discussions to swiftly arrange Xi’s visit soon as the COVID-19 situation is stabilized. But the exact timing of the visit has not been decided yet.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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