Chinese VP visit meant to solidify partnership

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Chinese VP visit meant to solidify partnership

Xi Jinping, vice president of China, will visit Korea for four days starting today in an effort to build closer relations.

Xi, 56, is in the middle of a four-nation swing that began with a visit to Japan and also includes stops in Myanmar and Cambodia. After landing in Korea tonight, Xi is scheduled to meet President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister Chung Un-chan tomorrow. On Friday, Xi will attend a breakfast meeting organized by the Korea China Friendship Association, which promotes the countries’ exchanges in politics, economy and culture, and then with officials from both the ruling and main opposition parties.

This is Xi’s first visit as the vice president. In 2005, he came to Korea as the secretary of the Communist Party of China’s Zhejiang Provincial Committee. He is also the first Chinese vice president to visit here since current President Hu Jintao in 1998.

Xi is touted as the likely successor to Hu as the next president of China in 2012. In December 2007, three months before Xi became the vice president, Newsweek magazine quoted Brookings Institution scholar Cheng Li as saying Xi had “an open-minded leadership style” and that with an “uptight” Hu in power, open-mindedness may be the quality that the Chinese public is seeking.

A high-ranking Foreign Ministry official in Seoul said the visit will serve as an opportunity for Korea “to forge the relationship with the key Chinese figure of the future.”

“Last year, when President Lee Myung-bak visited China, he talked about elevating the status of our partnership with China to a strategic one and encouraged high-level exchanges,” he said. “President Hu Jintao paid a visit in August of last year. Then Li Changchun [the fifth-ranked official in the Communist Party] came here in April of this year. Xi’s visit will keep up the momentum of high-level visits.” The official said the two countries wouldn’t issue any joint statement or declaration during Xi’s stay.

“There isn’t any one specific issue that our government has in mind,” he said. “Basically, we invited Xi to solidify the strategic partnership. We believe his visit would be in the interest of Korea, but he won’t be here to solve any pending problems.”

As an ally to North Korea, China is seen as an important player in resolving the ongoing nuclear standoff. The Foreign Ministry official said the nuclear question is sure to come up during Xi’s visit with President Lee or Prime Minister Chung.

Wu Dawei, China’s top nuclear envoy, will accompany Xi but his South Korean counterpart, Wi Sung-lac, is scheduled to fly to Moscow today.

By Yoo Jee-ho []

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