President plans visit to China to discuss North

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President plans visit to China to discuss North

President Park Geun-hye will visit China to discuss North Korea issues soon after her trip to the United States next month, Saenuri lawmakers said yesterday.

The plan to visit China came as the Park administration works to bolster its relationship with the new leadership of China, North Korea’s longtime ally, amid escalated tension caused by weeks of war threats from Pyongyang.

Ruling party lawmakers in the National Assembly’s Science, ICT, Future Planning, Broadcasting and Communications Committee and Agriculture, Food, Rural Affairs, Oceans and Fisheries Committee had dinner at the Blue House at Park’s invitation, and the president discussed her plans.

“I should visit China to discuss North Korea issues,” Park was quoted as saying by multiple Saenuri lawmakers who attended the dinner on Friday. “I will likely go to China after my U.S. trip.”

Park will leave for the United States on May 5 and meet with President Barack Obama on May 7.

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se is scheduled to visit China on Wednesday to meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here. A diplomatic source said Yun will arrange Park’s trip during his stay in Beijing.

Park has made a series of moves to bolster her government’s ties with the Xi Jinping leadership since her presidential victory. In January, she sent a special delegation to Beijing as president-elect before she sent an envoy to Washington.

She also made a phone call to Xi on March 20 to congratulate him on his inauguration, a first since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1992. At the time, Xi invited Park to visit China, calling her a “longtime friend of mine and the Chinese people.”

If Park chooses China as the destination of her second overseas trip, it will be a change from the typical pattern of Korea’s presidential diplomacy. Park’s predecessors, Lee Myung-bak, Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Dae-jung, all chose Japan as their second destination after the United States.

Leaders of Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo were supposed to have a trilateral summit in Korea at the end of next month, but the meeting was delayed amid rocky Sino-Japanese relations.

Meanwhile, Park sent condolences yesterday to China over the deadly earthquakes in the country’s southeast, according to the Blue House yesterday.

By Ser Myo-ja, Shin Yong-ho [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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