North Korea on agenda as Chinese president visits South

North Korea on agenda as Chinese president visits South
Chinese President Xi Jinping

SEOUL - Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit South Korea next week, the two countries announced on Friday, with North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons featuring prominently on the agenda in summit talks.

It will be Xi's first visit to South Korea as president but his fifth summit with South Korean President Park Geun-hye. South Korea's presidential Blue House said North Korea would be high on the agenda when the two leaders discuss regional security and cooperation.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said both countries were important cooperative partners and had achieved great success together. "China and South Korea have many common areas of interest,"Qin told a daily news briefing, though he declined to provide details of Xi's agenda.

Xi will be making a single-country trip and not visit North Korea, which regards China as its greatest ally and has relied on Beijing as its economic lifeline through steadily toughening UN sanctions imposed for its nuclear arms programme.

South Korea has sought to win China's assurance to be more assertive on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, but Beijing has been reluctant to take dramatic steps that could destabilize the North.

Xi and Park will likely focus on forging a stronger economic partnership. Despite the relatively short diplomatic ties reached 22 years ago, the two countries have developed into one of the world's biggest trade partnerships, with two-way trade nearly at $230 billion.

China is South Korea's biggest trading partner. South Korea is also one of the few developed countries that runs a surplus with China, one in excess of US$60 billion.

The two countries are also on the same page on their demand for Japan to take more proactive steps to show it has adequately atoned for its wartime past, when it colonised Korea and ruled parts of China following a 1937 invasion.

Both Xi and Park took office early last year and last met in March this year on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in The Hague.

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