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Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 09:17

Beijing, Seoul to cement ties with new pacts

By Zhao Shengnan

China and the Republic of Korea will outline the future of their relationship and sign a number of agreements during President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to Seoul, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Tuesday.

The agreements include trade, finance, consular affairs and the environment, Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told a news conference.

Xi and his ROK counterpart, Park Geun-hye, will also exchange views on maintaining the stability of the Korean Peninsula, he said.

Calling the ROK an important neighbor and an influential country in the region, Liu said the visit will boost cooperation for development and enhance coordination over global efforts at regional peace.

Xi's visit on Thursday and Friday will be the president's first visit to the ROK since he took office last year, and also his first overseas trip to one country exclusively.

In addition to having his fifth meeting with Park, Xi will meet ROK National Assembly Speaker Chung Eui-hwa and Prime Minister Jung Hong-won, Liu said.

Xi will also give a speech at a university and attend activities to promote ties.

"How to optimize the direction of future development of bilateral relations, how to build a stable and prosperous Northeast Asia and how to push forward settlement of global issues might be among the subjects of their conversations," said Piao Jianyi, chief researcher at the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Speaking of the common ground shared by Beijing and Seoul over Pyongyang's nuclear programs, Piao said, "Both countries insist on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, resolving the issue through dialogue and creating conditions for resuming the Six-Party Talks."

On economic areas, Park and Xi are likely to focus on progress made in their free trade agreement negotiations, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The FTA talks, which began in 2012, are about to reach the final stage. Once the deal is finalized, it is expected to improve the two markets' complementarity and facilitate regional economic integration.

"Economic cooperation is important. I hope negotiations between the two countries on the free trade agreement will be smoothly concluded in the coming months," said Yoon Young-kwan, professor of international political economics at Seoul National University.

"I'm optimistic about the prospect of the negotiation on that subject," said Yoon, who is also a former ROK minister of foreign affairs and trade.

China is the ROK's largest trading partner, largest export destination and import source, as well as its top destination of overseas investment. The ROK is China's third-largest trading partner.

In 2013, bilateral trade surpassed $270 billion, a 7 percent year-on-year increase, equaling the ROK's trade volume with the United States and Japan combined.

Xinhua contributed tothis story.

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