Wang talks ties on first trip to Seoul in five years

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Wang talks ties on first trip to Seoul in five years

Wang Yi, the Chinese state councilor and foreign minister, kicked off his first visit to Seoul in five years Wednesday and stressed that the biggest threat to international order was unilateralism and hegemonic acts, during talks with South Korea’s top diplomat.

“China and Korea are close neighbors, friends and even more, partners,” Wang told South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha at the start of their meeting in the government complex in central Seoul. “Amid an international situation full of uncertainties and a period of change that comes once in a century, we need to bolster exchanges and cooperation to understand and support each other to jointly protect lawful rights and interests and play a constructive role for regional peace and stability.”

Wang, however, noted “Currently, the greatest threat to global peace and stability is the unilateralism destroying international order and hegemonic acts challenging the rules of international relations.”

His remarks could be seen as a jab at the United States amid the ongoing Sino-U.S. trade war.

Wang’s visit to Seoul comes as the two countries have worked to mend relations after tensions escalated over the deployment of the U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system to Korea in 2017, a move strongly protested by China as a threat to its strategic interests.

China, Wang added, expects countries including South Korea to uphold multilateralism and international order based on the United Nations system as well as to protect the multilateral trading system centered on the World Trade Organization (WTO).

He said that China will “uphold an independent foreign policy of peace” and said it stands for “equality” among all countries regardless of size and is opposed to big countries looking down on and bullying weaker ones, calling for “non-interference in other countries’ international affairs.”

Kang said to Wang, “Based on an understanding between our two countries on the importance of the development of Korea-China relations amid changes in the regional and international situation, I believe we share the view to further advance our two countries’ cooperation through active high-level cooperation and close communication.”

She said she looked forward to discussing enhancing cooperation in economy, environment, culture and people-to-people exchanges, as well as to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and establishment of peace.

Wang said that he looks forward to discussing with Kang the strengthening of mutual cooperation and the changing regional and international situation, adding, “I believe a new joint understanding will be established between us.”

On Thursday, Wang was expected to pay a courtesy call to President Moon Jae-in at the Blue House.

Wang last visited Seoul in October 2015, accompanying Chinese Premier Li Keqiang for a trilateral summit with the Korean and Japanese leaders.

Seoul has often found itself in a tricky position amid the hegemonic struggle between the United States and China.

In 2016, Seoul decided to deploy the U.S.-led Thaad, a move to defend against Pyongyang’s missile provocations, and the battery was eventually installed in Korea in 2017. Beijing in turn implemented unofficial economic retaliatory measures including a ban on Chinese tour packages to Korea.

The two countries got relations back on track in October 2017, as Seoul agreed to the “three-no” conditions to assuage Beijing’s security concerns: no deployment of additional Thaad batteries, no partaking in the U.S.-led missile defense system and no joining in a trilateral security alliance with the United States and Japan.

Xi has yet to reciprocate a visit to Seoul though two years have passed since Moon’s trip to China in December 2017. President Moon, Chinese Premier Li and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are expected to meet in China later this month for a trilateral summit. Seoul last month decided to conditionally keep its bilateral intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo following pressure by Washington, who sees it as being symbolic of trilateral security cooperation amid possible Chinese and North Korean threats.

The United States has pushed Seoul to partake in its Indo-Pacific Strategy - seen as an attempt to contain China and face off against its Belt and Road Initiative - and has linked this with South Korea’s New Southern Policy.

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