Xi invites Yoon to China at 'a convenient time'
Chinese President Xi Jinping has invited President Yoon Suk-yeol to visit China at “a mutually convenient time,” according to China’s representative at Yoon’s inauguration in Seoul on Tuesday.
Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, who was the highest level Chinese official in the delegation from Beijing, extended Xi's invitation during a meeting with Yoon later that day.
“President Xi Jinping welcomes and invites the [Korean] president to visit China at a mutually convenient time,” Wang said through an interpreter. “President Xi specially requested I attend the inauguration ceremony on his behalf and to wish that your country develops, is peaceful and your people are comfortable under your leadership,” he added.
Through his spokesman, Yoon thanked the Chinese delegation for their visit to Seoul and expressed his thanks for Xi's letter and phone call following his election victory.
While news of Xi’s invitation suggested a potential warming of Sino-South Korean ties after years of tensions, the invitation was omitted from Chinese domestic media reports on the delegation’s visit to Seoul.
The invitation came as China is battling Covid-19 and has implemented a weeks-long lockdown in Shanghai, with local lockdowns of neighborhoods and residential complexes in the capital of Beijing and other cities.
The Chinese president is not known to have traveled abroad since the emergence of Covid-19 in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, and the country has imposed strict travel restrictions on both foreigners and its own nationals in an attempt to control the virus’s spread.
China’s ruling Communist Party has staked its legitimacy on its ability to control the virus better than the West, pointing to the low number of virus-related deaths.
Compared to China, Korea has significantly relaxed its approach to Covid-19 in the wake of the Omicron variant.
After surging Covid-19 infections, which topped 600,000 daily positive cases in March, Korean health authorities scrapped nighttime business restrictions in mid-April and an outdoor mask mandate at the beginning of this month as the Omicron wave receded.
Seoul and Beijing have also diverged sharply in foreign policy in recent years.
While China officially proclaims its desire for peace in Ukraine, its domestic media and online censors have amplified Russian claims of aggression by the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization while suppressing reports of Russian atrocities in Ukraine.
Seoul, on the other hand, has implemented sanctions against Moscow in line with the United States and the European Union, and the Korean government has expressed solidarity with Ukraine by sending humanitarian aid.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]