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Chinese FM Wang Yi to visit Seoul, Tokyo this week

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (left) shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during thir meeting held on the sidelines of the annual Munich Security Conference in February. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (left) shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during thir meeting held on the sidelines of the annual Munich Security Conference in February. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi is set to visit South Korea and Japan this week, in a move widely seen as an effort by Beijing to secure ties with its two East Asian neighbors ahead of the inception of the Joe Biden administration in the US.

Wang is set to arrive in Japan on Tuesday for a two-day trip, during which he is expected to meet Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.

He will then visit South Korea from Wednesday to Friday for a meeting with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. He could also visit Cheong Wa Dae to pay a courtesy call to President Moon Jae-in and meet national security officials there.

During Wang’s meeting with Kang scheduled for Thursday, the two will discuss issues of mutual concern, including COVID-19 cooperation and responses and high-level exchanges, as well as the situation on the Korean Peninsula and other regional and international issues, according to the Foreign Ministry here.

But, coordination of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s planned visit to South Korea is widely expected to top the agenda.

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 here is imminent, probably in December.

Seoul has also been putting effort into making Xi’s visit happen, hoping to bring about a thaw in Seoul-Beijing relations, which have been chilly since South Korea decided in 2017 to host a US-made advanced missile system. While President Moon Jae-in has visited China twice since he took office in 2017, Xi has yet to make a reciprocal visit.

Sources say Wang’s upcoming visit is aimed at managing relations with Seoul and Tokyo, Washington’s two close allies in the region, as intensifying US-China competition is expected to continue in the Biden era. Biden is expected to focus on bolstering his country’s network of allies in the region to counter China’s growing influence. In an essay he wrote for Foreign Affairs magazine earlier this year, he said “building a united front of US allies and partners to confront China’s abusive behaviors and human rights violations” was the “most effective way to meet that challenge,” referring to the challenge of dealing with China.

Wang sought to visit Seoul in October, but his trip was put on hold due to schedule conflicts. He last visited Seoul last December.

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