China’s foreign minister today visited South Korea, where he is expected to finalise preparations for a meeting between President Xi Jinping and the South’s leader to stave off threats of a new North Korean missile test.
The South Korean government wishes to hold the meeting, possibly next month, between Xi and Park Gyeun-hye to send a signal to Pyongyang that a fourth nuclear weapons test this year would not be tolerated, the Yonhap News Agency reported yesterday.
Foreign minister Wang Yi, invited by counterpart Yun Byung-se, will be in the country for two days – his first South Korean trip since taking up the post in March last year.
They will finalise the agenda for the meeting between Xi and Park, Yonhap said. Wang and Yun are scheduled to meet this afternoon at the foreign ministry in Seoul.
Wang will meet Park and join activities at the Chinese embassy before returning to Beijing tomorrow afternoon.
China is North Korea’s only major ally and biggest trading partner, and as such exercises some influence on the wayward North.
The Chinese government has previously backed UN Security Council sanctions against the North after it test-fired missiles, and it has also been part of stalled six-nation talks with Pyongyang – inculding the US, South Korea and Russia – on possible nuclear disarmament.
Beijing has urged “stability” in the Korean peninsula. But tensions flared up recently when the North fired shells near a patrolling South Korean warship, prompting an exchange of gunfire last Friday. Officials and analysts said the shelling might have been a warning shot in the poorly marked boundary.
The South’s government has long been hoping that Beijing will step in and force a halt to provocations from North Korea.
In return, Yonhap said China would seek to strengthen geopolitical ties with Seoul, such as by cooperating on matters related to Japan – which has been locked in maritime disputes with China over islands in the East China Sea.
Beijing also navigates the geopolitical relationship with the US – the South’s defence treaty partner – in mind, a South Korean government source told Yonhap.
Pyongyang fired four scud missiles into the sea in late February, and another two short-range missiles on March 3 amid South Korea-US military drills.
Twenty days later, it test-fired 30 short-range missiles into the sea, and may be preparing for another volley according to analysts and satellite photos.