Park's visit opens new chapter in China-ROK ties
Updated: 2013-06-27 09:58
South Korean President Park Geun-hye waves as she embarks an airplane at the Seoul Air Base of South Korean air force in Seongnam, south of Seoul June 27, 2013, before she leaves for China. [Photo/Agencies]
BEIJING - The Republic of Korea's President Park Geun-hye starts a four-day visit to China on Thursday.
The visit, which comes months after both countries saw leadership change, is expected to open a new chapter in bilateral relations.
Since the two neighbors established diplomatic ties in 1992, they have seen sustained progress in their overall relationship, particularly in economic interactions.
China has been ROK's largest trading partner for years. The large and populous country is also a major destination of ROK's investment and a primary source of foreign tourists.
Annual trade between China and ROK have increased almost 50 times and reached $256 billion in 2012, according to Chinese official statistics. Trade is expected to grow further as the two countries are working on a free trade area agreement.
Park's planned trip to China's western city of Xi'an, to be escorted by business executives, is also most likely to add fresh momentum to China-ROK economic ties given the city's status as a Chinese inland hub and the increasing presence of ROK's companies there.
Though economic issues and cultural exchanges would be high on Park's agenda during her China trip, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is the topic that would capture most global attention.
The tense atmosphere surrounding the Korean Peninsula eased slightly last week after senior diplomats from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) said the country was ready to join in any form of talks, including the long-stalled six-party talks.
For Park, who promised on her campaign trail and in her inauguration speech to build trust with Pyongyang, now faces an opportunity to do so.
The six-party talks is by far the most effective mechanism for the pursuit of lasting peace on the peninsula and in the Asia-Pacific at large.
Since the talks came to an impasse in 2009, hard-earned trust among concerned parties has been evaporating following unfortunate incidents one after another.
As a key stakeholder, China has repeatedly called for an early resumption of the six-party talks so as to realize lasting peace on the peninsula.
It is highly anticipated that Beijing and Seoul could make headway in this regard during Park's visit and breathe new life into stalled talks on the peninsula.