Delegation to go to Beijing for party’s congress

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Delegation to go to Beijing for party’s congress

Korea will send a delegation to the upcoming national congress of China’s Communist Party, a move intended to mend a diplomatic rupture and rebuild trust with the neighboring superpower.

Rep. Park Byeong-seug, a fifth-term lawmaker of the Democratic Party, will lead the delegation to the most important political event in China this year. The 19th national congress of the Communist Party will take place in Beijing on Oct. 18.

“The upcoming party congress will define the next five years of Chinese President Xi Jinping,” Park said Tuesday in a telephone interview with the JoongAng Ilbo. “It will be an opportunity to deliver a congratulatory message to the new Chinese leadership and have a discussion about Korea-China relations.”

The Blue House informed Park about his role in the delegation on Friday. Park is a veteran lawmaker and close ally of President Moon Jae-in. He headed a presidential delegation to China in May, shortly after Moon took office, after the new Korean president accepted a last-minute invitation from Xi for Korea’s participation in a Belt and Road conference.

According to Park, no decision was made as to whether the delegation will represent the Korean government or the ruling Democratic Party, since the national congress is not a Chinese government event, but a party event. “We will have to consult with Chinese authorities on the specifics such as the nature and size of the delegation and travel schedule,” Park said.

The timing is sensitive because Korea-China relations have been strained after Seoul allowed the U.S. deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system. China, a key trading partner of Korea, launched massive economic retaliation in return.

Sending such a delegation is a rare move. In the past, Korea merely sent a congratulatory message to China’s party congress, which is held every five years.

“This will send a strong message to China about the Moon administration’s desire to restore relations,” said Professor Kim Heung-gyu, director of the Chinese Policy Research Institute of Ajou University.

Speculation is also high that a possible summit between Moon and Xi would be discussed during Park’s visit. “I believe in the need to hold a summit,” Park said. “If there is an opportunity, I will bring it up with the Chinese side.”

Professor Lee Hee-ok of Sungkyunkwan University’s Sungkyun China Research Center, who recently visited Beijing, also said China seemed to want a summit. “I also got the impression that talks were taking place to improve high-level dialogue between the two countries,” Lee said.

Key associates of Moon have been visiting China to try to improve ties.

Rep. Lee Hae-chan of the Democratic Party, who visited China as Moon’s special envoy in May, gave a keynote speech at a strategic dialogue hosted by the Pangoal Institution of China and East Asia Institute of Korea last week in Beijing.

Moon Chung-in, presidential special adviser on foreign affairs and national security, attended the conference at the request of the Chinese think tank.

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