| 17 April 2024, Wednesday |

South Korea and China seek to improve ties despite US tensions

South Korea’s foreign minister has met his Chinese counterpart in the southern Chinese city of Xiamen.

The move comes as Seoul seeks to improve ties with its top trading partner even as relations between China and the US remain strained.

Ahead of the trip, South Korea’s newly appointed foreign minister Chung Eui-yong told reporters that he expected North Korea to be a key issue in talks with his opposite number in China, Wang Yi.

In his opening statement, Mr Wang said China and South Korea will “seek a process for a political resolution of the Korean Peninsula issue”, as part of pursuing policies for permanent peace amid North Korea’s nuclear stand-off with Washington.

Mr Chung said both China and South Korea share the goal of “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean Peninsula.

He said South Korea has asked China “to continue serving a constructive role in the stable management of the situation on the Korean Peninsula and achieving substantial progress in the Korean Peninsula peace process”.

South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo newspaper speculated that China’s decision to host Mr Chung in Xiamen, a city close to the self-ruled island of Taiwan, was intended to send a message to Washington against attempting to shore up a US-led “anti-China coalition”.

The US administration has stepped up efforts to bolster cooperation with allies South Korea and Japan, focused on China’s growing influence and the North Korean nuclear threat.

On Friday, US president Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan hosted his South Korean and Japanese counterparts at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, for discussions on the countries’ three-way partnership and Washington’s policies on North Korea.

The US and China are at odds over a range of issues from trade to human rights in Tibet, Hong Kong and China’s western Xinjiang region, as well as over Taiwan, China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea and the coronavirus pandemic.

China has also been accused of lax enforcement of UN sanctions aimed at curbing North Korea’s nuclear programme.

The worsening relations between Washington and Beijing have raised concerns in Seoul that it would become squeezed between its main security ally and biggest trade partner.

Earlier this week, Mr Wang also met his counterparts from four south-east Asian countries – Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.