South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Park Jin was set for his first visit to China yesterday as South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s government seeks to reassure Beijing about their relationship, despite stronger ties with the US and tensions over Taiwan.
Park is scheduled for a three-day stay in the eastern port city of Qingdao, during which he would hold talks with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅), South Korea’s foreign ministry said.
Park is the first high-level official to travel to China since Yoon took office in May.
His trip comes after Beijing expressed outrage over US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week.
Yoon faced criticism from lawmakers for not meeting with Pelosi. Yoon, who was on vacation, held a telephone call with her instead. His office said that the decision was made in consideration of national interests and that there was no pressure from Beijing.
Stakes are high for Park’s visit, as Seoul walks a fine line between its alliance with the US and with China, South Korea’s top trade partner, amid their intensifying rivalry.
Park has said his trip would be a chance to reduce misunderstandings and boost cooperation in areas including trade, health and environment.
“By actively promoting strategic high-level communication, we can have better understanding of each other, reduce unnecessary misunderstanding and expand common interests,” he told a news conference.
Park said that when he met Wang at the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting last month in Thailand, he said South Korea’s strengthening US alliance and participation in a US-backed economic forum for Asia, which Beijing said was designed to decouple countries from its economy, was not meant to “neglect or set aside” China ties.
Both sides also face a potential flareup over the THAAD US missile defense system stationed in South Korea, as well as Seoul’s possible participation in a US-led chip alliance involving Taiwan and Japan, which China opposes.
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