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Mutual respect seen as key to China-ROK ties

By ZHANG YUNBI | China Daily | Updated: 2022-08-25 06:43
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Flags of China and ROK. [Photo/VCG]

Ties: Xi sets goal for China, ROK to be 'good neighbors, good friends and good partners'

"Mutual respect" and "cooperation" stood out as two key phrases used in festive messages by the leaders of China and the Republic of Korea on Wednesday to mark the 30th anniversary of the two countries establishing diplomatic relations.

Observers said that the messages, especially the one from President Xi Jinping, reminded the two leading East Asian economies of the necessity to join hands to overcome unprecedented economic downturns and to strive to overcome outsiders' efforts to sow discord between them.

Xi and ROK President Yoon Suk-yeol exchanged congratulatory messages on Wednesday to celebrate the anniversary.

In his message, Xi praised the "all-around development" of the relationship, which, with fruitful outcomes, "has brought major benefits to the two countries and their people" and "made major contributions to the peace and development of the region, as well as the world".

Calling on the two nations to build on such "valuable experiences", Xi attributed the "brilliant achievements" made in bilateral ties to staying committed to four points: great insight that adapts to the changing times; mutual respect, trust, and taking good care of core interests and the major concerns of each other; cooperation and a win-win approach that lead to common prosperity; and openness and inclusiveness that boost regional stability, growth and the basic norms of international relations.

Noting that the world is currently experiencing a "critical moment", Xi said that the global community, including the two countries, could overcome these problems "only through solidarity and cooperation".

The Chinese president set the goal for the two countries to be "good neighbors, good friends and good partners".

Xi said he is ready to work with Yoon so that the two nations can "better grasp the big picture, get rid of interference, consolidate their friendship and focus on cooperation".

Noting that annual bilateral trade has increased nearly fiftyfold over the past 30 years, Yoon said in his message that the two countries are expected to build on the spirit of mutual respect and make their ties more mature and healthy.

China and the ROK are expected to deepen high-level exchanges and strengthen substantial cooperation in areas such as economic security, particularly in relation to supply chains, as well as the environment and climate change, in order to achieve results that can be felt by the people of the two countries.

As travel between the two countries has increased tenfold over the past 30 years, Yoon said the celebrations of the 30th anniversary are expected to deepen friendship between the citizens of both countries.

Enhanced cooperation

China has been the ROK's largest trade partner for 18 consecutive years, and the ROK is now China's third-largest trading partner and its second-largest source of foreign direct investment.

Last year, bilateral trade exceeded $360 billion, surpassing the ROK's bilateral trade with the United States, Japan and the European Union combined.

Xing Haiming, Chinese ambassador to the ROK, said at a reception on Monday that "there will be no mountains that cannot be conquered" by the two countries as long as they understand each other and "respect and take good care of each other's core concerns and major interests".

When addressing a separate forum of experts and students of the two countries on Tuesday, he noted that "there are no structural contradictions between the two countries", and "there shouldn't be grudges that cannot be resolved".

Senior policy advisers and experts have warned that there are voices in Seoul calling for economic decoupling with China.

Some figures in Seoul said the two countries could follow an approach of keeping bilateral economic cooperation afloat while political tensions remain over thorny issues such as the deployment of the US' THAAD missile system and the CHIP 4 semiconductor and chip alliance.

Han Fangming, deputy director of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, said the two countries "do not target any third party and should not be subject to any third party".

Some people's proposal for the ROK to have economic dependence on China and military dependence on the US could turn "a balanced approach" into "a deadlocked dilemma", Han said in an article published recently.

Peace on the Korean Peninsula "will be an unattainable scenario if there are security delusions relying on US military engagement", he added.

New achievements

Also on Wednesday, Premier Li Keqiang and ROK Prime Minister Han Duck-soo exchanged congratulatory messages.

Li said he hoped for new and greater achievements from the "healthy, stable development" of the China-ROK strategic cooperative partnership.

Han said he looked forward to both countries accelerating the second phase of negotiations on their bilateral free trade agreement and strengthening teamwork in areas such as supply chains, culture and environmental protection.

Reasonable approach

Lyu Chao, dean of Liaoning University's Institute of America and East Asia Studies, said the recent visit by ROK Foreign Minister Park Jin to China shows Seoul's pragmatic and reasonable approach toward its ties with China.

During recent official interactions, Beijing made a five-point proposal for the development of ties over the next 30 years, including that the two sides should "keep their positions independent and stay out of the disturbances from outside".

These proposals "stem from the experiences of the relationship over the past three decades, and they constitute a Chinese solution for the future development of relations", Lyu said.

Wang Junsheng, a researcher of East Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the potential offered by the relationship is much greater than it was 30 years ago, which is a great chance for both nations, adding that there are a "number of challenges" due to US moves against China and the existence of the US-ROK alliance.

"The experiences in the past 30 years show that there is no such thing as a twin-track approach in which smooth economic collaboration could survive bilateral political tensions. A properly functioning political relationship is a precondition for successful economic and trade teamwork," he said.

"Currently, the greatest task for Seoul is to properly tackle the US-related factors. Only when its two-way relationship does not target a third party can both countries achieve the healthy development of their ties," he added.

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