President Moon Jae-in will meet with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China in Seoul in the first half of this year. This was recently disclosed by the Presidential Office of Cheong Wa Dae.
President Moon invited President Xi to visit Seoul in the near future when they held summit talks in Beijing last month. Xi said in response that he will positively consider a visit, according to officials.
"You can take it as almost certain that Xi will visit Seoul in the first half of next year, though final coordination is necessary on issues like the specific timing," a ROK Presidential official told reporters on the background.
President Xi's trip to Seoul, if realized, would be his first since Moon became President in 2017. It could symbolize an improvement in relations between the two countries that have somewhat soured after Seoul decided to host the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.
During Moon’s meeting with Xi late last year, Moon and Xi pushed Pyongyang and Washington to maintain the momentum of nuclear talks. The two leaders met amid indications of possible preparations by Pyongyang for resuming high-profile provocations like test-firing a long-range rocket.
According to the Korean Presidential Office of Cheong Wa Dae, President Xi told Moon, "China and South Korea should join forces in making North Korea and the United States maintain the dialogue momentum. There are many people worrying about the tense situation on the Korean Peninsula."
Satellite images have reportedly shown increased activities at North Korea's long-range rocket launch site near its border with China, coupled with its stated threat of a "Christmas gift" for the Trump administration, apparently referring to a major provocation. The North Korean ‘gift,’ however, did not prove true.
In a separate development involving Presidents Moon and Xi, they stated in Beijing earlier that they looked forward to improved ties following a protracted disagreement over the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system that Beijing considers a threat.
President Moon told Chinese leader President Xi that while the sides may have felt “disappointed toward each other for a while,” their shared culture and history prevented them from becoming completely estranged.
“It is hoped that South Korea’s dream becomes helpful for China as China’s dream becomes an opportunity for South Korea,” Moon said in opening remarks before reporters were ushered from the room.
In his opening comments at the meeting at the Great Hall of the People in the center of Beijing, Xi described China and South Korea as “countries of substance and influence in Asia and throughout the world.”
“China and Korea should deepen and develop their strategic cooperative partnership, accommodate each other’s core interests and major concerns, and lift bilateral ties to a higher level,” Xi said.
Ties between the Northeast Asian neighbors nosedived in 2017 after Seoul accepted the placement of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system in southern South Korea. Beijing insists its real purpose is to use its powerful radars to peer deep into its territory, rather than to warn of North Korean missile launches and shoot them down.
A furious China launched an unofficial boycott of everything from Chinese tour group visits to South Korea to South Korean television shows, boy bands and other cultural products. Major South Korean retailer Lotte, which provided a golf course where the missile system was deployed, was singled out for especially harsh treatment and its China business operations were essentially destroyed. Even sales of ubiquitous South Korean auto brands such as Hyundai and Kia plunged for months.
Ultimately, however, Beijing was unable to force South Korea to remove the system and its fury appears to have subsided somewhat amid its trade war with the U.S. and tensions elsewhere in Asia. South Korea now hopes to have Xi visit next year and is also eager to have Beijing use its influence with North Korea to give a jolt to deadlocked denuclearization talks.
While South Korea appreciates the part China has played in that effort, the “current recent situations in which the talks between the United States and North Korea are stalled and tensions on the Korean Peninsula have become heightened are certainly not favorable, not only for South Korea and China but also for North Korea,” Moon said in his opening comments.
“I hope that we continue to closely cooperate so that the opportunities we have gained with difficulty can come to fruition,” he said.
North Korea has set a year-end deadline for the U.S. to make concessions in the nuclear talks, without apparently making any offers of its own. The U.S. says it won’t accept that demand and has called on North Korea to return to negotiations. While China is North Korea’s most important diplomatically and chief source of investment and economic assistance, its ability to force Kim Jong Un’s regime to alter policy is believed to be limited.
Japan is also wary about China’s rapid military expansion, and there has been a public uproar over the detention of more than a dozen Japanese citizens on spying allegations in China. Chinese naval and coast guard ships also routinely violate Japanese-claimed waters around the disputed islands.
Presidents Moon, Xi reaffirmed cooperation for nuke-free Korean Peninsula at their meeting in Beijing on Dec. 23, 2019.
President Moon Jae-in and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Dec. 23 reaffirmed in a bilateral summit the desire of both sides to cooperate for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Arriving in Beijing for the talks before moving to Chengdu to attend Korea's eighth trilateral summit with China and Japan, President Moon said at the Great Hall of the People, "Recently, dialogue between North Korea and the United States has stalled, and tension has risen on the Korean Peninsula. This situation in no way benefits either of our countries – or North Korea."
"We highly appreciated China's important role for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and peace settlement," he said, adding, "I hope that we can work together even more closely so that the long-anticipated opportunity presented to us will finally come to fruition."
Xi said, "Both China and Korea are heavyweight countries in the world, beyond Asia," adding, "The two countries have common understandings in many ways in that both of us promote peace, stability and prosperity of the region as well as protect multilateralism and a free trade system."
"President Moon's visit will be an opportunity to improve the relationship of China and Korea and deepen trilateral cooperation including Japan."
On bilateral cooperation, President Moon said, "Since President Xi and I agreed to seek ways to cooperate in order to link up China's One Belt One Road initiative and Korea's New Southern and New Northern policies, a joint report containing concrete plans for collaboration has been recently adopted," adding that he expects synergy through joint entry into a third country.
The bilateral summit was the first between Korea and China since June, when both presidents held dialogue on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan.