Chinese President Xi Jinping said he would seriously consider visiting South Korea when he met with Korean Prime Minister Han Deok-soo on the sidelines of the Asian Games, an official said.
The official said Xi first raised the issue during the meeting with Han in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, just before the opening ceremony.
“This means that President Xi knows that it is his turn to visit South Korea,” said the official, who requested anonymity, adding that Xi’s visit was “delayed for a long time.”
Xi’s last visit to South Korea was in 2014. President Yoon Seok-yeol extended an invitation to Xi when they met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, in November 2022.
During the meeting with Han, Xi also expressed support for inter-Korean reconciliation and pledged to continue efforts for peace on the Korean Peninsula after Han asked China to play a constructive role, according to First Vice Foreign Minister Chang Ho-jin.
Han made the request while briefing Xi on President Yoon Seok-yeol’s “bold initiative” policy, which aims to provide massive economic aid to North Korea in exchange for denuclearization steps, according to Chang.
Xi also said that China appreciates Seoul’s efforts to resume the long-suspension annual trilateral summit between South Korea, China and Japan, and that Beijing welcomes the holding of a trilateral summit at an appropriate time, Zhang said.
The trilateral summit, which began in 2008, was last held in 2019.
The commitment to cooperation also comes ahead of a scheduled high-level meeting between South Korea, China and Japan in Seoul next Tuesday. The meeting will include South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Chung Byung-won, Japanese First Vice Foreign Minister Takehiro Funakoshi and Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Wong Rong.
“We will make efforts to ensure that the summit can be held quickly, starting with the high-level meeting next week and continuing through the foreign ministers’ conference,” Zhang quoted Han as saying.
Han asked Xi for China’s support for Seoul’s efforts to host the 2030 World Expo in Busan, and Xi said in response that China would “seriously study” the request.
South Korea is also making efforts to improve relations with China, which critics say have cooled recently due to what they describe as Yoon’s attempts to bring South Korea closer to the United States and Japan, a departure from the larger approach of the previous Moon Jae-in administration that focused on China.
Saturday’s meeting was held against the backdrop of the recent rapprochement between Pyongyang and Moscow, following a rare summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Han explained our bold ideas and recent developments regarding the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and urged China to continue to play a constructive role,” Zhang said.
The official said that the issue of a potential arms deal between Russia and North Korea was not addressed during Saturday’s meeting.
Zhang said this marks the first meeting between Han and Xi. It is also the first visit by a South Korean prime minister to China in four and a half years.
“I hope to develop healthy and mature relations between South Korea and China, based on mutual respect, mutual benefit and common interests,” the Prime Minister’s Office quoted Han as saying.
In light of the continuing threats posed by North Korea, Han also stressed that the high-level talks between Seoul and Beijing demonstrate the two countries’ commitment to taking their relations to the next level.
Han also conveyed President Yoon’s special greetings and expressed his hope for the success of hosting the Asian Games, the office said.
Earlier in the day, Han attended a lunch hosted by Xi for leaders of countries competing in the Asian Games as part of his two-day visit.
Accompanying Han Chang and Vice Culture Minister Jang Mi-ran, a former Olympic weightlifting gold medalist.
Han told reporters earlier that Seoul is committed to maintaining a friendly relationship with Beijing, stressing that his trip to the Asian Games aims to demonstrate Seoul’s dedication to strengthening relations between South Korea and China. Korea usually sends its Minister of Culture to these events.