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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Seoul to push for visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping

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 President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, waves alongside first lady Kim Keon Hee as they arrive on the presidential jet at Seoul Air Base in Gyeonggi on Monday morning after a weeklong visit to Indonesia and India for Asean and G20 events. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]
President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, waves alongside first lady Kim Keon Hee as they arrive on the presidential jet at Seoul Air Base in Gyeonggi on Monday morning after a weeklong visit to Indonesia and India for Asean and G20 events. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

South Korea will work toward a visit to Seoul by Chinese President Xi Jinping by seeking “diplomatic solutions,” said National Security Adviser Cho Tae-yong following President Yoon Suk Yeol’s bilateral talks with China’s premier in Jakarta last week.

“China’s intention to develop relations with us was clear,” Cho said in an interview with cable broadcaster Channel A Monday, referring to Yoon’s first bilateral talks with new Chinese Premier Li Qiang, noting the atmosphere of the meeting had been “good.”

Yoon in his first bilateral talks with Li on the sidelines of Asean meetings in Indonesia on Thursday encouraged Beijing to “fulfill a responsible role” on the North Korean nuclear issue so that it doesn’t become an “obstacle” in bilateral ties.
According to the presidential office, Yoon relayed that leaving the North’s nuclear issue unresolved will only push South Korea, the United States and Japan closer together, while at the same time indicating wishes for closer economic cooperation with China.

Cho said that Xi told Yoon in their first summit on the margins of the G20 summit in Bali in November last year that he will visit Korea when the “Covid-19 situation stabilizes.” Xi didn’t attend this year’s G20 summit.

Cho noted that a three-way summit involving South Korea’s president, Japan’s prime minister and China’s premier, last held in 2019, could happen before Xi’s visit. South Korea is the current chair of the trilateral summit.

Cho said there was a “consensus” to hold this summit in the near future during Yoon and Li’s talks last week.

Yoon and Li also had “an in-depth exchange of opinions” on the North Korean nuclear issue, he said, but that the two sides agreed not to reveal further on their discussions.

Cho noted, “Mutual respect is important in South Korea-China relations.”

President Yoon Suk Yeol, center, is flanked by National Security Adviser Cho Tae-yong, right, and Foreign Minister Park Jin, left, during the Korea-Mikta summit Saturday on the sidelines of the G20 gathering in New Delhi, India. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]
President Yoon Suk Yeol, center, is flanked by National Security Adviser Cho Tae-yong, right, and Foreign Minister Park Jin, left, during the Korea-Mikta summit Saturday on the sidelines of the G20 gathering in New Delhi, India. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Early Monday morning, Yoon and first lady Kim Keon Hee returned to Seoul after wrapping up their weeklong trip to Indonesia and India to attend a series of Asean-related meetings including the East Asia Summit (EAS) in Jakarta and the G20 summit in New Delhi.

Yoon held a meeting with aides later to review the results of the latest trip.

Through the latest Asean and G20 summits, Yoon appeared to differentiate South Korea’s policy toward China and Russia in the midst of growing geopolitical divides, indicating areas of cooperation with Beijing including the economy, while sending a warning message to Moscow on making arms deals with Pyongyang amidst the war in Ukrainian.

During the EAS on Thursday, Yoon told all participants that North Korea’s nuclear and missile development poses an “existential threat” to the Indo-Pacific region and stressed that the permanent members of the UN Security Council bear a “heavier responsibility” in sanctions enforcement. The remarks appear to have targeted China and Russia, two of the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council, with Chinese Premier Li and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in attendance at the EAS.

In the multilateral forums, Yoon stressed Korea’s role as a global pivot state striving to become a leader in the Indo-Pacific region and underscored the strengthened solidarity between South Korea, the United States and Japan through their trilateral summit in Camp David last month.

Yoon in turn took a sterner stance on Moscow amid reports of a possible meeting between leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling for an immediate halt to any “attempts at military cooperation with North Korea that undermines peace in the international community” in the South Korea-Asean summit Wednesday.

During the G20 summit Sunday, Yoon pledged a total of $2.3 billion in short-term aid and longer-term support for Ukraine’s war recovery efforts, following up on his surprise visit to Kyiv in July.

Yoon had several brief encounters with U.S. President Joe Biden, discussing their joint commitment to trilateral cooperation with Japan following their Camp David summit last month. He also held another round of bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, where the leaders discussed holding a three-way leaders’ summit with China before the end of the year.

Yoon’s trip also focused on expanding new markets in Indonesia and India through bilateral summits. Korea marks the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations with both countries this year.

In Yoon’s bilateral summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, the two leaders agreed to boost cooperation in the defense, space and energy sectors, including electric vehicles and hydrogen.

Yoon and Indonesian President Joko Widodo also agreed to strengthen their strategic partnership in areas including economic and defense industry cooperation in a bilateral summit in Jakarta on Friday.

Yoon also took part in a signing ceremony Thursday in Jakarta with Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) expected to enter into force next year, boosting economic ties by lifting most tariffs.

In India, Yoon also held a series of bilateral summits with leaders of countries including Italy, Germany, Mauritius, Comoros, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Turkey.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]