S. Korean FM to visit China

2024-05-13 08:51:06Global Times Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

As South Korean Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul is set to visit China from Monday to Tuesday, Chinese observers said that negotiating arrangements for a long-stalled trilateral leaders' meeting among China, Japan and South Korea will be a top priority. Cho's trip is being closely watched as observers wonder whether this visit will address current obstacles and pave the way for a fresh start in relations between China and South Korea.

Cho will visit China from Monday to Tuesday at the invitation of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian announced on Friday.

During the visit, Cho will meet with Wang to exchange views on issues of mutual interests including Korea-China relations, the Korea-Japan-China trilateral leaders meeting, Korean Peninsula issues, and regional and global affairs, according to a press release from South Korea's foreign ministry on Friday.

The release said Cho will hold a business roundtable with Korean entrepreneurs in China to listen to their suggestions and difficulties and exchange opinions on ways to provide support for them and boost economic exchanges between the two countries.

South Korea, the current rotating chair of the trilateral dialogue, is eager to realize the trilateral meeting, which is also a top priority of Cho's trip, Lü Chao, an expert on the Korean Peninsula at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday.

The meeting has long been stalled due to COVID-19 pandemic, a soured relationship among the three countries and U.S. disruption that has created obstacles for the three countries to cooperate, Lü argued. He said he believes this trilateral meeting, if resumed at this crucial juncture, can help stabilize the supply chains of the three Northeast Asian countries and stimulate economic cooperation among them.

Moreover, discussion between Chinese and South Korean leaders concerning the Korean Peninsula issue is Seoul's key concern, experts said.

The trilateral leaders' meeting was last held in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province in December 2019.

Chinese experts noted the widening divergences between Beijing and Seoul on the diplomatic front, caused mainly because of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol's leaning toward the U.S. and malicious statements about the island of Taiwan, South China Sea and other China-related issues. They view such divergences as unavoidable differences between two sides.

"Cho's trip, the first trip to Beijing by a South Korean top diplomat in more than six years, is set to cover the current obstacles facing the two countries and explore ways to solve the pressing problems, including whether Seoul will join AUKUS," Lü said.

South Korea has held talks about joining part of the AUKUS defense deal among the U.S., the UK and Australia, South Korean defense minister Shin Won-sik said last month, only weeks after the pact said it would consider including Japan, according to Reuters.

The Yoon administration is mired in a severe quagmire after South Korea's liberal opposition party won a landslide victory in the country's parliamentary elections in April, placing Yoon in a challenging position for the three remaining years of his term.

Moreover, Yoon's approval rating fell to 23 percent in a weekly tracking poll released by Gallup Korea after the parliamentary elections, down 11 percentage points from the last survey conducted before the elections. His previous low was 24 percent in September 2022, Bloomberg reported.

"Under such circumstances, we await whether Yoon is going to reassess the one-sided and erroneous foreign policy and economic policies toward the U.S. in the past two years. This is also what China hopes to know," Lü said.

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