The leaders of South Korea and China are to hold a summit on Thursday in Seoul to strengthen cooperation on security, business and culture amid Pyongyang's persistent saber-rattling and Tokyo's moves to push the limits of its war-renouncing constitution.
Presidents Park Geun-hye and Xi Jinping will sign a set of agreements on key issues aimed at elevating their strategic partnership to a more comprehensive one, at a critical time when the two nations face increasingly volatile dynamics in Northeast Asia.
North Korea has threatened to carry out a "new form" of nuclear test. Japan said Tuesday that it will lift a ban on exercising collective self-defence by reinterpreting its constitution, which had prevented Tokyo from waging war and possessing war-related materials.
Korean conservative group members welcome the visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Korea. (Yonhap)
Xi arrives in Seoul for a two-day state visit with a large group of political and business leaders, as well as Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan.
The Chinese leader's trip to South Korea has been drawing attention internationally as he chose to visit Seoul before Pyongyang and Tokyo. He is also the first Chinese leader to make an official visit to South Korea before North Korea, a key ally of China, officials said.
"On President Xi's official visit to South Korea, the two countries are expected to practically strengthen bilateral relations by signing 10 cooperative agreements," said Ju Chul-ki, senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs.
During the summit, to be held at Cheong Wa Dae, the leaders will agree to increase the level of consular protection for citizens of the two countries and expand cooperation on transnational environmental issues including air pollution and fine dust.
The leaders will agree to improve cooperation on the governmental level to revitalize both countries' economies by promoting an early conclusion of free trade negotiations and by launching a foreign exchange market to allow for direct trade betwen the Korean won and Chinese yuan.