In first visit to China, South Korean foreign minister seeks to reassure Beijing over U.S. ties

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin meets with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken at the Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. Andrew Harnick/Pool via REUTERS

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SEOUL, Aug 8 (Reuters) – South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin will make his first visit to China on Monday as President Yoon Suk-yeol’s government seeks to reassure Beijing about its ties despite strong ties with the United States and tensions over Taiwan.

Seoul’s foreign ministry said Park is scheduled for a three-day stay in the eastern port city of Qingdao, during which he will hold talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Park is the first high-level official to travel to China since Yoon took office in May.

His visit comes after Beijing expressed displeasure over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week. China claims the self-governing island. Read on

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Yun faced criticism from lawmakers — some from her own ruling party — for not meeting with Pelosi. Yoon, who is on vacation, calls with her instead. His office said that this decision was taken considering the national interest and there was no pressure from Beijing. Read on

The stakes are high for Park’s visit, as Seoul walks a fine line between the United States and China, South Korea’s top trading partner, their bitter rival.

Park said his visit would be an opportunity to reduce misunderstandings and increase cooperation in areas including trade, health and the environment.

“By actively promoting strategic high-level communication, we can better understand each other, reduce unnecessary misunderstandings and increase common interests,” he said at a press conference.

Park noted that when he met Wang at last month’s G-20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Thailand, he spoke of South Korea’s strengthening of the U.S. alliance and participation in the U.S.-backed Economic Forum for Asia, which Beijing designed to isolate the country from its economy, China. It was not intended to “ignore or set aside” the relationship.

Both sides also face potential flare-ups over the THAAD US missile defense system deployed in South Korea, as well as Seoul’s possible participation in a US-led CHIP alliance that includes Taiwan and Japan, which China opposes. Read on

Yun pledged to buy and deploy a second THAAD battery and in 2017 reneged on his predecessor’s pledge to China in the so-called “three nos” — no additional THAAD deployment, no participation in the US-led global missile shield and no build-up of one. A tripartite military alliance that includes Japan. Read on

China argues that the system’s powerful radar can penetrate its airspace, and relations have been hurt by China’s sharp cuts in trade and cultural imports.

Beijing’s foreign ministry is calling on Seoul to keep the promise, but Park told a recent parliamentary question that the “number three” was not an official pledge or agreement.

Yonhap news agency said on Monday that South Korea had decided to attend the preliminary meeting of the chip agreement, dubbed “Chip 4”, citing an unnamed senior presidential official.

Yun said his government was looking into the issue in light of national interest, and the Foreign Ministry said no decision had been made.

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Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Juri Roh; Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: Principles of Thomson Reuters Trust.

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