Park-Xi summit to focus on North Korea

Leaders of South Korea and China are set to discuss ways to curb North Korea's nuclear ambitions and boost peace in Northeast Asia at a bilateral summit planned for Wednesday amid tension abating on the Korean Peninsula after breakthrough talks last week.

President Park Geun-hye will leave for China for a three-day trip to attend a celebration to mark the end of World War II, but she will hold a summit with her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as soon as she arrives in Beijing, Park's senior foreign affairs secretary Ju Chul-ki said Monday. It will be their sixth summit since she entered the office in early 2013.

"The leaders will intensively discuss ways to bolster the bilateral relationship, and also on the Korean Peninsula and regional security," said Ju at a press briefing.

Park's trip is expected to highlight her efforts to address North Korea's evolving nuclear threat and secure a delicate balance amid the intensifying rivalry between Beijing and Washington.

On Sept. 3, China plans to commemorate the 70th anniversary of its victory, widely seen as a showcase of its growing military strength and its attempt to highlight Japan's surrender in the war. Many Western leaders, however, remain reluctant, with concerns of the event further stoking Beijing's rivalry with Japan.

Park is the only leader of a US-allied country to make an official announcement to attend the Beijing ceremony. Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe said he would skip the event, citing domestic obligations, which has placed Park in an awkward position and highlighted Japan's alliance with China's rival, the US

Despite concerns, Park is scheduled to attend a rare parade to be staged at Tiananmen Square, with other leaders including Russian President Vladmir Putin and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also attending.

Ju stressed that Park's decision to attend the parade was made after "much consideration" and taking various factors into account such as bilateral ties between Seoul and Beijing and the growing geographic tensions in Northeast Asia.

"We hope to promote peace, harmony and co-operation in Northeast Asia and beyond by setting up a correct perception and evaluation on the past history through the event," he said.

Ju also expressed hopes for Beijing to play a bigger role in the future on resolving North Korea's nuclear ambition and on achieving a peaceful unification of the two Koreas.

After the meeting with Xi, Park will also hold separate talks with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang to seek ways to further develop bilateral ties amid growing fears on the volatile regional economy.

To strengthen business ties with China, South Korea's largest trading partner, a large group of business representatives will be accompanying Park on her trip. The two sides will work closely to highlight the need for parliamentary approval for the Korea-China free trade agreement within this year. China is South Korea's largest trade partner. Trade volume between South Korea and China stood at $228.9 billion (S$322.6 billion) in 2013.