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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 24)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:00 November 24, 2020

Chinese FM's visit
Seoul, Beijing should cement ties for peace

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi plans to visit Seoul from Nov. 25 to 27 for talks with his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha on diverse pending issues including the envisioned visit to Seoul by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Wang's visit draws attention as it comes amid prospective lingering tension between the United States and China ahead of the shift of presidency in the U.S.

The two ministers will likely focus on realizing Xi's visit but the prospect is not so bright given the persisting COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese Ambassador to Korea Xing Haiming told a recent seminar that the two nations have been putting their primary priority on Xi's visit but the situation is not so favorable due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kang and Wang will likely discuss other pending issues such as close cooperation in coping with COVID-19, peace on the Korean Peninsula following the inauguration of the Joe Biden administration and other global issues. Before coming to Seoul, Wang will first visit Tokyo for a two-day stay. Wang is expected to attempt to solidify relations with Seoul and Tokyo, both allies of the U.S., ahead of President-elect Joseph Biden taking office on Jan. 20, as a means to check the new U.S. administration.

While in Korea, Wang is expected to engage in brisk diplomatic activities by proactively explaining China's position amid intensifying tension in relations between Beijing and Washington. Many experts share the notion that the bilateral conflict will persist under the Biden administration as the U.S. will likely continue to put pressure on China on many fronts.

The two nations have been on a collision course over the issues of Hong Kong and Taiwan and economic organizations in Asia and the Pacific. They will likely continue to lock horns in the areas of military, security and trade, putting South Korea into a further dilemma as it maintains its alliance with the U.S. On the economic front, China is the No. 1 trading partner for Seoul.

The Biden administration will likely refrain from taking excessive measures, such as a tariff war against China. But Seoul will likely be caught between the two nations as they fiercely compete over regional hegemony and their national interests. Biden has declared he will no longer pursue Donald Trump's "America first" policy and instead employ multilateralism since he was elected as a Democratic presidential candidate.

Biden's multilateralism will need to include Seoul and other allies in the fight against China which will inevitably irritate the Chinese. Seoul will likely see its vulnerability to the bilateral conflict increased. Regarding the issue of North Korea's denuclearization, Biden has said he will not follow Trump's top-down method that saw summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

This means China may be tempted to change its tactics in dealing with the North Korea issue. We urge the President Moon Jae-in administration to flexibly cope with the changing situation surrounding the nation and induce China's cooperation to facilitate the peace process on the Korean Peninsula through consistent communication and dialogue.

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