South Korea, China top diplomats vow to work on North Korea, COVID-19

(Reuters) – The foreign ministers of South Korea and China pledged on Thursday to work together to advance bilateral ties and tackle regional and global issues including stalled nuclear talks involving North Korea and the coronavirus pandemic.

South Korea’s Kang Kyung-wha held talks with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi who arrived in Seoul late on Wednesday, after spending two days in Tokyo amid talk of a trip to Seoul by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Wang said his visit was to highlight the importance of bilateral relations as the two countries cooperate as “strategic partners” on defending regional peace and stability and promote global governance.

“The COVID-19 crisis could not defeat the citizens of our two countries,” he told Kang at the start of the meeting, through an interpreter.

“The bilateral ties have overcome the COVID-19 ordeals and are showing their strength and ever more vigour.”

Kang thanked Wang for the visit, expressing hopes for an exchange of views to deepen cooperation on issues including North Korea, the pandemic and economic recovery ahead of the 30th anniversary of the bilateral relations in 2022.

“I am also looking forward to discussing ways to stably manage the fluid situation on the Korean peninsula and to foster conditions to move forward our efforts to build lasting peace,” she said.

The ministerial talks come as both countries explore the possibility of Xi visiting Seoul, just as the United States is gearing up for a new administration under Democratic President-elect Joe Biden. Xi’s trip had been expected early this year but was postponed by the pandemic disrupting the diplomatic calendar.

Wang is also scheduled to pay a courtesy call on President Moon Jae-in, among other officials.

Wang is the second senior Chinese diplomat to visit South Korea since the coronavirus emerged in China late last year, following an August trip by Yang Jiechi, a member of the Communist Party Politburo.