BEIJING, Dec. 12 (Yonhap) -- Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping said Saturday he would like to see a free trade agreement (FTA) between his country and South Korea in the near future.
Xi, widely seen as in line to succeed President Hu Jintao in 2012, made the remark in a meeting here with South Korean and Japanese journalists during which he stressed the importance of cooperation between the three countries. China is South Korea's largest trading partner.
"A Korea-China FTA would drive momentum to improve bilateral ties between the two countries," Xi said, two days ahead of his four-nation Asian tour. He will visit Japan, South Korea, Cambodia and Myanmar from Dec. 14-22.
"According to a joint research report, the two nations (China and South Korea) mostly agree, but there are some differences of opinion," Xi said, stressing a deal would need to consider each country's strengths.
In 2008, trade between the two nations reached US$168.3 billion, with Korean exports accounting for $91.4 billion.
"Korea, China and Japan are neighboring countries that have exchanged culture and a shared history. This creates a favorable environment to push forward with cooperation," Xi said. "Trilateral cooperation could help join the East Asian community, which corresponds with the interests of Asians and the global community."
About a month after the inauguration of Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in September, the leaders of South Korea, China and Japan held a trilateral summit to discuss ways to reinforce ties between their countries.
"We have to take this historic opportunity to expand cooperation," Xi said.
Regarding the stalled six-party talks that aim to denuclearize North Korea -- which Beijing chairs and also involve the U.S., South Korea, Japan and Russia -- Xi called for each country to make cooperative efforts to resume the negotiations soon.
Xi will visit Seoul on Wednesday for three days, during which he will meet with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and senior government officials, in his first trip to South Korea as vice president.
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