(ATTN: UPDATES with details on relations with China in last paras)
By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, June 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Tuesday it is expected to become a standing member of an expanded group of leading economies, not a temporary observer, once U.S. President Donald Trump's related plan is implemented smoothly.
The outlook came as Trump and President Moon Jae-in agreed to add South Korea to the lineup of Group of 7 (G7) members during their phone talks the previous day.
Trump is seeking to include Russia, Australia, India and probably Brazil in the longstanding club, which he regards as outdated. The existing members are the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
Talking with Moon for 15 minutes, Trump explained about his scheme to host a gathering of G7 members and the other four or five nations in the U.S. as early as in September.
Moon expressed support for the move and willingness to attend an in-person group summit if organized. The U.S. is the host of this year's G7 session on a rotational basis.
If Moon makes a trip to the U.S. for the meeting within this year, it would mean that South Korea becomes a "formal member of the new international mechanism," not a one-time or provisional observer, Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kang Min-seok said at a press briefing.
It suggests South Korea's emergence as one of the nations leading the global order, which would help enhance its global stature and national interest, he added.
Moon, in particular, was the first foreign leader with whom Trump had a phone conversation in connection with the plan to scale up the G7, Kang pointed out.
Trump's initiative is widely seen as aimed at putting more pressure on China amid deepening rifts between the superpowers.
It's an open secret that his administration has been pursuing an anti-China bloc of the U.S. and other like-minded nations with democracies.
Speaking to reporters later on the customary condition of anonymity, a Cheong Wa Dae official dismissed media-driven concerns about Beijing's possible protest against Seoul's decision to join the G7.
"First, the issue of China or Hong Kong was not raised in the (Moon-Trump) phone talks," he said. "I saw news reports of China's possible complaint, but I don't think China will lodge a protest."
Holding a face-to-face summit of G7 members and other invited nations would itself send a positive signal that the world is returning to a normal condition and economy, he added.
Moon's focus lies on a fresh diplomatic mechanism and international relations suitable for the post-coronavirus era, not any attempt to target a certain nation, according to his aides.
Seoul and Beijing have maintained solid mutual trust in the course of coping with the virus.
The official would not predict whether Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel to South Korea ahead of the envisioned G7 meeting.
"The timing of his visit has not been decided yet," he said. Xi earlier agreed to make a trip here within this year.
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