The Korea Herald


S. Korea to pursue Xi and Putin’s visit despite coronavirus fears

By Ahn Sung-mi

Published : March 3, 2020 - 16:19

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Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday it will continue to work for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s planned visit here in the first half of the year, while admitting the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak could affect his trip.

The ministry has submitted a policy briefing to President Moon Jae-in in writing, not through a face-to-face session, due to the virus outbreak here. It laid out policies for this year that include high-level exchanges with partner countries and strengthening inter-Korean relations. It also vowed to make all-out efforts to help contain the coronavirus and its fallout.

“As of now, there is no change in our position that Xi will visit in the first half, but the exact date hasn’t been decided yet,” a senior official from the ministry said on condition of anonymity. “But if the (COVID-19) situation is not resolved fast, it could have an impact.”

Seoul said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is also expected to visit Seoul in the latter half of the year.

In regards to strengthening ties with Russia -- marking the 30th anniversary of bilateral relations -- President Vladimir Putin is also set to visit Korea within this year. But the exact schedule hasn’t been finalized.

As Korea is currently battling the largest outbreak of COVID-19 outside mainland China, where the virus originated in December, the ministry said it will focus all of its diplomatic efforts to overcome the situation.

As of Tuesday, the country had reported 5,186 confirmed cases with 29 deaths.

The ministry will continue to negotiate with foreign governments to reduce excessive restrictions put on Koreans due to virus concerns, while providing on-the-ground consular support to help those facing isolation or strict quarantine procedures. It will also provide necessary support to minimize the negative impact on Korean businessmen and companies operating overseas, which have been facing difficulties due to strict entry restrictions and visa issuance.

As of Tuesday, 87 countries and regions have imposed entry bans or special quarantine measures on those traveling from Korea, including 36 that have barred entry.

The ministry is also evaluating whether to send “rapid response” teams from Seoul to support around 1,200 Koreans put into mandatory quarantine in China, Vietnam and other countries. But as the officials could also be subject to the 14-day quarantine program upon entry, it is checking whether they can receive exemption from such procedures.

In regards to the stalled inter-Korean relations, the ministry renewed its commitment to foster denuclearization talks by creating a “virtuous cycle” with North Korea-US talks and inter-Korean dialogue complementing one another.

By Ahn Sung-mi (