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Thursday, July 3, 2014, 11:37

Xi starts two-day visit to S Korea

Xi starts two-day visit to S Korea

President Xi Jinping and first lady Peng Liyuan (right) meet Republic of Korea President Park Geun-hye in Beijing in 2013. (Lan Hongguang / Xinhua)

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Seoul Thursday for a two-day state visit to South Korea, his first trip to the Asian neighbor since he took office last year.

Xi is scheduled to hold talks with his South Korean counterpart Park Geun-hye and meet with National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa and Prime Minister Chung Hong-won.

He will also deliver a speech at a local university and attend economic and trade events during his stay in South Korea.

Xi, who is on his first visit to the neighboring country since taking office,is doing something unusual by visiting only South Korea during the trip as it is rare for China’s top leaders to visit a single country in a single trip.

Accompanied by a large business delegation, including several of the country’s leading telecom tycoons, the tightly scheduled trip focuses primarily on economic cooperation and strategic communication amid a changing situation in northeast Asia, according to diplomats from both sides.

As many as 12 agreements are to be signed, in areas of economy, trade, finance, the environment and consular affairs, Chinese vice foreign minister Liu Zhenming said this week.

Observers are expecting a breakthrough in the China-ROK FTA talks, which started in May 2012 and will soon enter 12th round in South Korea this month.

A FTA mechanism has been long expected by the two sides, especially as the trilateral China-South Korea-Japan FTA talks has been stalled due to Japan’s declining ties with the two neighbors.

China has become the largest trade partner, export destination and import source of South Korea, while South Korea has become the largest import source and one of the most important investors for China 22 years after they established diplomatic relations.

Two-way trade reached $274.2 billion in 2013, a 55-fold increase compared with that at the beginning of their diplomatic ties.

The visit will also see the fifth meeting between Xi and his South Korean President Park Geun-hye since both became the state leaders.

It has been widely believed that regional issues, including the Korean Peninsula and the growing assertive actions taken by Japanese leaders to beef up nationalism, will become key topics between the two leaders.

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