Lee starts visit to China on Monday

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Lee starts visit to China on Monday

President Lee Myung-bak leaves Monday for a three-day state visit to China, which will include a summit with President Hu Jintao and meetings with other senior officials to discuss bilateral and regional affairs, the Blue House said yesterday.

According to the Blue House, Lee’s trip will take place from Monday to Wednesday. In addition to the summit with Hu, Lee will have meetings with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. A meeting with business leaders from both countries is also planned.

It is Lee’s second state visit to China.

The two leaders will have discussions on “how to upgrade the strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries and work together for the sake of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” the Blue House said.

The trip will come as a new leadership led by Kim Jong-un is established in North Korea after his father Kim Jong-il’s death in December. Lee’s trip was planned before Kim’s death.

Lee and Hu are expected to discuss the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia as well as efforts to resume the six-party nuclear disarmament talks. Shortly after Kim’s death was made public, China moved quickly to recognize the North Korean regime under Kim Jong-un.

The Lee administration has also made a series of conciliatory gestures to seek peace with the new leadership in Pyongyang to lower inter-Korean tensions and maintain stability.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss a Korea-China free trade agreement. While some local media reported that the two leaders will officially announce the opening of FTA negotiations, Park Jeong-ha, the presidential spokesman, denied it yesterday. “It is physically impossible due to steps that must be taken before the talks, such as holding a public hearing in Korea,” he said.

Since 2008, Korea, China and Japan have agreed to look into the possibility of a trilateral free trade agreement.

Since Seoul and Beijing established diplomatic relations in 1992, bilateral trade between Korea and China went up from $6.37 billion to $188.4 billion.

As of 2010, China was Korea’s largest trade and investment partner, while Korea was China’s third largest trade partner. Of Korea’s $891.6 billion trade volume, 21.1 percent or $188.4 billion was with China, larger than the $ 92.5 billion trade between Korea and Japan.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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