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By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, Feb. 4 (Yonhap) -- New Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming called Tuesday for countries to make a "scientific" decision to fight a deadly new coronavirus in line with the U.N. health agency's recommendations against unnecessary travel restrictions.
Stressing Beijing's "capability and resolve" to combat the virus that emerged late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province, Xing made the appeal on the day Seoul's travel ban on foreigners, who have traveled to the province in the past two weeks, took effect.
This week, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the body's executive board that there was no need for measures that "unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade" in containing the virus.
"WHO is the most scientific, authoritative organization (on health issues), and I believe that we can base our decisions on WHO recommendations," Xing told reporters in Korean at the Chinese Embassy in central Seoul.
The ambassador refused to comment on Seoul's travel restrictions this week, but called for public support and stressed that South Korea and China are closely linked nations.
"In the face of such an issue, we can be seen as part of a community sharing the common destiny. I hope that we can understand one another and can put ourselves in each other's shoes," Xing said.
Xing, who arrived in Seoul last week, held the press briefing as Seoul has been under pressure to expand its travel restrictions with the United States and other countries taking more stringent measures to fend off the virus that has killed more than 420 people and sickened over 20,000 in China alone.
South Korea has reported 16 confirmed cases, while fears of person-to-person transmission have deepened as the death toll and the number of confirmed cases around the world continues to rise.
Xing also used the press briefing to express appreciation for Seoul's support for Beijing's fight against the virus. Seoul has decided to offer US$5 million in emergency assistance to China, along with millions of protective masks and other relief items.
"South Korea, through various channels, has sent messages supporting China in its fight against the contagious disease, and provided us with precious other support," he said. "We will not forget this warm support for good."
Later in the day, Seoul's foreign ministry reiterated that it would actively cooperate with Beijing's efforts to contain the epidemic.
"South Korea and China have closely communicated, and will do so in the future to well manage and overcome the situation," Kim In-chul, ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing.
Meanwhile, a ministry official dismissed the local news report that Seoul and Beijing have delayed Chinese President Xi Jinping's plan to visit South Korea until June.
"With China earnestly weighing the possibility of his trip to South Korea in the first half of this year, the two countries are still consulting on the matter," the official said on condition of anonymity.
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