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(LEAD) Virus hurts possibility of Xi's visit to S. Korea in first half of year: FM

All News 16:59 April 28, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS comments by foreign ministry officials in paras 6-8)

SEOUL, April 28 (Yonhap) -- Chances of Chinese leader Xi Jinping visiting South Korea in the first half of the year have become more unlikely due to the coronavirus pandemic, Foreign Minister Kang Kyug-wha said Tuesday.

South Korea and China have been in talks to arrange Xi's visit to Seoul in the first half of the year. South Korean officials said after a meeting between Xi and President Moon Jae-in in Beijing in December that the Chinese leader is certain to visit South Korea in the first half of this year.

But questions have arisen about whether the visit will take place in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, Kang acknowledged the virus situation has hurt the prospect.

"The possibility of Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting the country in the first half of the year has become lower due to the COVID-19 crisis," Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told lawmakers in a parliamentary session.

Kang said that both sides are still committed to realizing Xi's visit at an early date.

"The Chinese side has announced long before that it is earnestly considering a visit in the first half, and we are on the same page (with China)," foreign ministry spokesperson Kim In-chul told a press briefing later in the day.

"Given the current pandemic situation of COVID-19, both sides are watching the situation closely and continuing discussions on the specific timing of the visit to South Korea," he said.

During the parliamentary session, the foreign minister also said the two countries are in consultations over granting entry ban exemptions or fast-tracking entry for businesspeople.

Regarding ongoing efforts to advance wages for furloughed Korean workers at the United States Forces Korea (USFK), Kang said Washington has denied a proposal suggested by Seoul, citing lack of legal grounds.

The foreign minister said the defense ministry is leading efforts to help settle wages for the furloughed workers, while the government is seeking to ultimately resolve the issue by reaching a deal on the cost-sharing agreement.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha speaks to lawmakers at a parliamentary session held at the National Assembly in Seoul on April 28, 2020. (Yonhap)

mlee@yna.co.kr
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