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Wang Yi says Xi visit requires 'complete control' of COVID-19

President Moon Jae-in and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) pose for a photograph at Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday. (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) pose for a photograph at Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday. (Yonhap)

Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit South Korea “as soon as the conditions are ready,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Thursday, stressing that the two sides must focus on containing the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I believe that (Xi’s) visit will be realized as soon as the conditions are ready,” Wang said after his meeting with South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha.

When asked about the conditions for Xi’s visit, Wang said the pandemic must be brought under “complete control,” pointing at his face mask.

The Chinese foreign minister, however, said Seoul and Beijing can discuss what constitutes “complete control” and that Beijing hopes to arrange the trip at an early date.

Wang’s visit had fanned speculation that Seoul and Beijing were fine-tuning the schedule for Xi’s visit, which the two sides had agreed to arrange in the near future. However, the timing of the visit remains unclear due to the pandemic.

Wang also rejected some academics’ views linking his trip to Seoul with US-China friction, saying “the US is not the only country in the world.”

Saying that all countries are independent and sovereign states, Wang said diplomacy is not a simple matter and stressed the importance of South Korea-China relations.

“What is needed at this stage is pressing forward with the second stage of the China-Korea FTA,” Wang said, adding that South Korea and China must cooperate in a range of areas including the economy, regional security, multilateralism and free trade.

Wang also met with President Moon Jae-in later in the day, where the South Korean leader stressed that Seoul and Beijing have been cooperating closely to deal with the pandemic, as well as on Korean Peninsula issues.

“I express thanks for the constructive role China has played in the Korean Peninsula peace process,” Moon said, adding that his administration will continue to work with China and the international community to achieve denuclearization and permanent peace on the peninsula.

At the foreign ministers’ meeting, Kang and Wang are said to have discussed a range of bilateral issues, including strengthening the strategic partnership between the two nations.

“I hope to exchange views on further consolidating the relationship of strategic partners ahead of the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2022 and assess achievements in all areas,” Kang said going into the meeting.

“In addition, I hope for talks that will continue to create conditions for progressing the Korean Peninsula peace process and for stably managing developments surrounding the Korean Peninsula.”

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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