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Chinese foreign minister arrives in South Korea amid talk about Xi visit

Kitco News

SEOUL (Reuters) - Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in South Korea for talks on Wednesday amid talk of a trip to Seoul by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Wang, who is also a state councillor, arrived in Seoul after spending two days in Tokyo and will meet his counterpart Kang Kyung-wha on Thursday, said South Korea’s foreign ministry.

The two will discuss a range of bilateral, regional and global issues, including North Korea, the coronavirus and an incoming U.S. administration under Democratic President-elect Joe Biden, Seoul officials said.

Wang is also scheduled to pay a courtesy call on President Moon Jae-in, among other officials.

Wang’s trip comes as the two countries discuss the possibility of Xi’s visit to Seoul, which had been expected early this year but was postponed as the pandemic disrupted the diplomatic calendar.

Kang said early this month that both sides were arranging a Xi trip on the assumption he would come “as soon as the COVID-19 situation stabilises”.

Wang is the second senior Chinese diplomat to visit South Korea since the coronavirus emerged in China late last year, following an August trip by Yang Jiechi, a member of the Communist Party Politburo.

Both countries have largely successfully tackled their coronavirus outbreaks.

The two countries remain at odds over a U.S. missile defence system installed in South Korea in 2017, which Washington and Seoul say is designed to defend against North Korean missile threats but China fears could undercut its security interests.

China, North Korea’s sole major ally, has played a key role in efforts to bring a negotiated end to its nuclear programmes in return for U.S. sanctions relief, but talks have stalled since last year.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Gareth Jones

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