(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead)
By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, April 2 (Yonhap) -- Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong arrived in China on Friday for talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, to discuss bilateral ties, the Korean Peninsula situation and regional and global issues, his office said.
The ministers are set to hold their first in-person meeting in their current capacities in the southeastern city of Xiamen on Saturday, amid renewed tensions caused by North Korea's recent missile launches and an escalating Sino-U.S. rivalry.
The talks come after Chung met separately with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Seoul last month to deepen bilateral ties and cooperation in advancing Seoul's agenda for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Before his departure, Chung said that it is "very important" to cooperate with China in order to make progress in Seoul's efforts to foster lasting peace on the divided peninsula.
"Discussions between South Korea and China on that matter have been proceeding fairly well," he told reporters. "I expect there will be discussions on that matter as there is a need for China to continue to play a constructive role."
The agenda for the talks is expected to include cooperation in preventing an escalation of tensions by the North's possible saber-rattling, future high-level exchanges and preparations for events to mark the 30th anniversary next year of the establishment of bilateral relations.
Issues related to a Sino-U.S. rivalry could also surface, as Washington seeks to tighten a network of alliances with South Korea, Japan and others to shore up its regional leadership and oppose China's policies on Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea.
After the talks, Chung and Wang are set to hold a luncheon meeting and issue separate press statements.
The bilateral talks come amid the Chinese minister's brisk diplomacy toward neighboring countries apparently aimed at deepening bilateral cooperation amid growing tensions with the U.S.
Wang has held or plans to have talks with his counterparts from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines in Fujian Province this week.
Seoul and Beijing picked Xiamen as the venue for Saturday's meeting due to their respective antivirus policies and scheduling matters, a Seoul official said.
But speculation has lingered over geopolitical implications of the venue as Xiamen is close to Taiwan, which Washington sees as a key partner for its "free and open" Indo-Pacific vision.
A South Korean foreign minister last visited China in November 2017. The last foreign ministerial talks between the countries took place in Seoul in November.
Days after his inauguration in February, Chung held phone talks with Wang, during which Wang invited Chung to visit China.
Chung is set to return home Saturday.
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