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Chinese foreign minister to visit Seoul next week

Wang Yi’s visit comes amid a flurry of US diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (Reuters-Yonhap)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (Reuters-Yonhap)
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will make a two-day visit to Seoul next week to discuss bilateral relations and other pending issues, including North Korea, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

The top Chinese diplomat will arrive here on Sept. 14 and hold talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong on Sept. 15. He is also likely to pay a courtesy call to President Moon Jae-in but both the ministry and Cheong Wa Dae said nothing has been confirmed yet.

Wang last visited Seoul in November last year.

Since then, there has been a flurry of diplomacy between Seoul and Washington as US President Joe Biden, who took office in January, has pledged to rebuild ties with Asian allies amid China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

During the upcoming visit, Wang is expected to renew China’s commitment to relations with South Korea, possibly in an attempt to counter the US’ budding efforts in beefing up its presence in the region.

The high-level visit also comes amid fresh signs of North Korea restarting its Yongbyon nuclear reactor since July, which South Korea considers as a move for the North to earn leverage in the stalled denuclearization talks.

The South is pinning hopes on China’s role in bringing a more defiant North Korea to the negotiating table.

Late last month, top nuclear envoys from the US and Russia also visited Seoul to discuss North Korea issues. While the US has reiterated it is ready to talk with North Korea without preconditions, China has urged sanctions relief to expedite the talks.

Wang is also likely to ask Seoul’s support for the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, set to be held next February, noting the sports event could set the stage for reviving diplomacy with North Korea, just as the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics led to the historic US-North Korea summit talks.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Seoul is also cited as one of the possible topics. Xi’s visit was originally planned for last year but has been delayed due to the prolonged pandemic. A recent speculation is that Moon could attend the Beijing Olympics and hold a summit with Xi there.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)
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