Chinese envoy flies in to meet president-elect

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Chinese envoy flies in to meet president-elect


Zhang Zhijun

Following her first official diplomatic meeting last week with a group of Japanese officials, President-elect Park Geun-hye will meet with China’s Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun today, Seoul’s foreign ministry officials said yesterday.

“Zhang, a special envoy representing the Chinese government, will meet the president-elect on Thursday,” said Cho Tai-young, a spokesman at the ministry.

Another official from the ministry added that the two will discuss ways to develop Korea-China relations and also cooperate on North Korea issues. Zhang, vice minister of China’s foreign ministry since December 2010, attended the fourth and fifth Korea-China high-level strategic dialogues. He was also elected as a central committee member of the Communist Party of China at the Congress that was held last November.

It is the first visit by a senior Chinese official since Park was elected on Dec. 19. The envoy, who arrived in town yesterday for a three-day trip, is expected to deliver Park letters written by Chinese President Hu Jintao and also Vice President Xi Jinping, during their meeting at the President-elect’s office in Tongui-dong, central Seoul. Zhang will also meet with Korea’s Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan in the morning. “The two are expected to discuss issues of bilateral importance, including North Korea,” the ministry spokesman said.

The envoy’s visit comes after conflicts in Northeast Asia over territorial and other historical issues and changes of leadership in Japan and China.

Though Korea-China relations have warmed up lately with Seoul’s decision to send Liu Qiang, a 39-year-old convicted Chinese bombthrower back home instead of to Japan, which wanted him extradited for allegedly starting a fire at the Yasukuni Shrine, there are other contentious issues between the countries. China, a key ally of North Korea, is reportedly lukewarm about tougher punishments against Pyongyang by the United Nations Security Council after its launch of a long-range rocket on Dec. 12. South Korea and the United States have been trying to persuade China to agree to new sanctions.

By Lee Eun-joo []
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