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Xi Jingping to discuss N. Korea, ties with S. Korea

All Headlines 10:52 December 16, 2009

By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, Dec. 16 (Yonhap) -- Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, widely expected to become the country's next leader, was to arrive in South Korea later Wednesday for discussions on ways to improve the neighboring nations' relations and resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, officials said.

It is his first trip to South Korea since he took the post in March last year and it is also the first time for a Chinese vice president to visit here in a decade. President Hu Jintao traveled to Seoul in 1998 when he served as vice president.

Xi plans to pay a courtesy call on President Lee Myung-bak on Thursday morning and have breakfast together, followed by meetings with Prime Minister Chung Un-chan, National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyong-o, and a group of business leaders, according to Yu Bing, a Chinese embassy spokeswoman.

South Korean officials said the North Korean nuclear issue is one of the major agenda items.

"They will talk about North Korea and other issues of mutual concern related to the Korean Peninsula," a foreign ministry official told reporters on the customary condition of anonymity. "And the Shanghai Expo will be held next year, when South Korea wil mark 'Visit China Year.' South Korea will also host a G-20 economic summit. Ways to cooperate on those events will be discussed along with how to expand the exchange of youth visits."

A proposed South Korea-China free trade agreement (FTA) and Xi's desire to create a East Asian community, are expected to be discussed as well, he added.

In an interview with South Korea and Japanese correspondents in China last week, Xi expressed hope about the signing of the FTA and the establishment of an EU-style East Asian community.

South Korea expects Xi's four-day trip here to help further strengthen Seoul-Beijing relations.

"He is an important figure and he is a person (expected) to become more important. We will try to give him a good impression of South Korea for the sake of the development of relations with China," the official said.

It is a good chance for South Korea to forge strong ties with China's next-generation leader, he added, with Hu scheduled to retire in 2012.

Xi is known to share Hu's pragmatic style in favor of social stability and economic reform.

South Korea and China, which forged diplomatic ties just 17 years ago, agreed to upgrade their relations to strategic partnership during President Lee's trip to Beijing in May.

Xi's trip is part of high-level visits between the two sides. Li Changchun, fifth in the hierarchy of the Communist Party of China (CPC), made a trip here in April. Both President Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao are scheduled to visit South Korea next year.

When Xi lands in a military airport just south of Seoul at around 9 p.m. Wednesday, he will be greeted by Vice Foreign Minister Shin Kak-soo and Seoul's new ambassador to Beijing, Yu Woo-ik.

Xi's entourage will include six vice foreign ministerial officials including Wu Dawei, who chairs the six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear program.

Xi met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang in June.

Xi will travel to the ancient city of Gyeongju, some 370km south of Seoul, on Friday and attend a banquet hosted by North Gyeongsang Province Governor Kim Kwang-yong.

On Saturday, he is scheduled to leave for Myanmar, the third leg of his four-nation tour. The first stop was Japan and the last will be Cambodia.


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