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(2nd LD) S. Korea's vice foreign minister leaves for China, possibly to arrange summit

All Headlines 17:58 August 31, 2016

(ATTN: CHANGES dateline; ADDS Chinese foreign ministry official's comment in last 2 paras)

SEOUL/BEIJING, Aug. 31 (Yonhap) -- A senior South Korean diplomat will leave for China on Wednesday, the foreign ministry said, raising expectations that Seoul is seeking to arrange a summit between the leaders of the two countries.

Lim Sung-nam, vice foreign minister, will be in Beijing until Thursday during which he will meet with his Chinese counterpart, Liu Zhenmin, according to the ministry. It, however, did not provide more information such as what they will discuss.

His trip is just days before leaders of the group of 20 industrialized and emerging countries are to gather in China early next month. Expectations have been growing that South Korea and China might have bilateral summit talks on the sidelines of the international gathering.

South Korea and China have seen their ties fray amid the diplomatic feud over Seoul's recent decision to deploy a U.S. advanced missile defense system on its soil despite Beijing's strong objection.

China has voiced concerns that the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system could undermine its strategic security interest, while Seoul and Washington have claimed that the system is only aimed at countering the North Korean threat.

The continued row has led to concerns that the united front to pressure Pyongyang to give up its pursuit of nuclear and missile development may be affected as Beijing could show its displeasure with THAAD by easing off on enforcement of sanctions.

The G-20 meeting has been seen as a possible breakthrough moment for the two neighboring countries by providing a chance for their leaders to meet and discuss pending issues of mutual concern. Lim's visit ahead of the gathering raised hopes that South Korean President Park Geun-hye and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will hold a summit.

Later in the day, China's foreign ministry hinted that talks are under way for a summit between the two countries.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing that holding bilateral talks and exchanges on the sidelines of the G-20 event is normal, adding that Beijing has talks scheduled with member countries.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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