China / Politics

China-ROK relations their 'best in history'

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-07-03 06:59

BEIJING - Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK) from July 3 to 4. It is believed the visit will inject new vigor to bilateral ties.

"China-ROK relations are now at their best in history," said Qu Xing, head of the China Institute of International Studies.

Since diplomatic relations were established in 1992, bilateral ties have undergone positive and upward development with no major twists and turns, according to Qu.

"High-level official exchanges, economic and trade and people-to-people exchanges have all seen major progress over the past 22 years," Qu said.

China has become the ROK's largest trading partner, largest export destination and largest source of imports, while ROK is now the third-largest trading partner and fifth-largest source of foreign investment for China.

Both are the largest overseas tourist destination and source of foreign students for each other.

During his state visit, Xi will hold talks with his ROK counterpart Park Geun-hye to outline the future of bilateral ties and exchange views on enhancing mutual trust and cooperation in international and regional affairs.


Observers said it is quite rare in China's diplomatic arrangement that the president pays a state visit to only one country in an overseas trip.

"The trip, Xi's first visit to the ROK since he took office last year, could be seen as a return visit for ROK president Park's state visit to China in June 2013, demonstrating that China is attaching great importance to China-ROK ties," said Qu.

During Park's state visit, the two heads of state held talks in Beijing and pledged to boost cooperation and enhance their relations of strategic cooperation and partnership. The two sides issued a joint statement and an action plan to enhance the strategic partnership.

They also met each other ahead of the 21st informal economic leaders' meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation last October on Indonesia's resort island of Bali and on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands in March.

"Such frequent exchanges are important and they are conducted on the basis of close cooperation between the two countries in economy, trade, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, their consensus on major issues in the region, as well as their shared understanding of the post-World War II order," Qu said.


Over the past 22 years bilateral economic and trade relations have developed leaps and bounds.

Two-way trade between China and the ROK surpassed 270 billion U.S. dollars in 2013, a 7 percent year-on-year increase, equating to South Korea's trade volume with the United States and Japan combined.

A China-ROK free trade agreement (FTA) negotiation was launched in May 2012 and more than ten rounds of talks have been conducted. The two countries aim to reach a comprehensive, balanced and high-level FTA.

Xi's visit will consolidate the China-ROK relationship and inject new vigor for future cooperation, said Zha Daojiong, a professor at the School of International Studies under Peking University.

Zha said the two countries should speed up negotiations on the free trade pact and reach an agreement at an early date.

Both countries should encourage more enterprises to participate in the FTA, to further unleash the huge potential in economy and trade between the two countries, Zha said.

During Park's visit to Beijing last year, the two sides signed bilateral cooperation documents concerning economy, trade, finance, science and technology and energy conservation.

The two sides are expected to release a joint statement and sign cooperative documents covering economy, trade, finance, environment and consular affairs during Xi's visit.

Once the paradigm of Asia's economic take-off, the ROK boasts many innovation-spirited companies, such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai.

"Chinese enterprises can learn from the innovation spirit of these ROK enterprises," Zha said.


On regional issues, analysts believe China and the ROK share many similarities.

"The two sides will exchange views on maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula during the upcoming visit," said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin at a press briefing on Xi's visit on Tuesday.

The Northeast Asia situation is relevant to the immediate interests of China and the ROK. The Korean Peninsula situation is currently quite stable, but some unstable factors still exist, said Zhang Tingyan, former Chinese ambassador to the ROK.

The two countries should enhance communication and cooperation, commit themselves to safeguarding peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula, to realize denuclearization of the peninsula, Zhang said.

According to Qu Xing, the issue will be an inevitable topic during Xi's visit.

"The visit will help send positive signals for efforts to bring the denuclearization of the peninsula under discussion within the six-party talks framework," Qu said.

As for Japan, Qu pointed out that China and the ROK are among the countries which suffered most from Japanese aggression in the past.

"Both China and the ROK are pressing Japan to correctly understand its historical issues and keep on high alert against its right-leaning trail," Qu said.


In addition, experts hailed the progress and successful cooperation between the two countries on historical issues which were considered sensitive in the past.

The remains of 437 Chinese soldiers killed in the 1950-53 Korean War returned to China from the ROK earlier this year after Park offered to return the remains during her China visit last year.

A memorial was established in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, to commemorate Ahn Jung Geun, a Korean patriot who killed a top Japanese official over a century ago for the independence of his motherland and peace in East Asia.

The memorial has received between 500 and 600 visitors a day since it opened in January.

"These new moves show that cooperation between the two countries has moved from non-sensitive fields to traditionally sensitive ones," said Yang Xiyu, a Korean Peninsula analyst and a senior fellow at the China Institute of International Studies.

Surmounting such sensitive areas, bilateral cooperation will be upgraded and enter a more pragmatic stage, Yang said.

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