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China’s High Legislator to Meet South Korea Leaders for Talks – The Diplomat

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China’s prime legislator was set to fulfill new South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in Seoul on Friday, as Yoon’s push to buttress a army alliance with Washington has prompted issues that it may hamper Seoul’s ties with Beijing.

Li Zhanshu, third within the Chinese language Communist Occasion hierarchy and certainly one of President Xi Jinping’s closest confidants, is the highest-level Chinese language official to go to South Korea since his predecessor got here right here in 2015. Li’s journey is seen as a part of Beijing’s efforts to spice up ties with neighboring nations forward of a Communist Occasion congress subsequent month that can doubtless grant Xi a 3rd five-year time period as chief.

Li’s go to can also be essential for Yoon’s authorities because it desires to guarantee Beijing that its push to strengthen the U.S. alliance and participation in U.S.-led regional initiatives gained’t goal China, its largest buying and selling accomplice.

Li, chairman of the standing committee of China’s Nationwide Individuals’s Congress, heads a 66-member Chinese language delegation to South Korea that features three Cupboard-level officers. On Friday afternoon, he’s to fulfill Yoon after separate talks with Nationwide Meeting Speaker Kim Jin Pyo and different South Korean parliamentary leaders on cooperation between the 2 nations’ legislatures.

Li’s closeness to Xi suggests his feedback replicate the considering of Xi and his interior circle.

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Earlier this month, Li visited Russia and made feedback decrying sanctions towards Russia, underscoring Beijing’s assist of Moscow in its conflict on Ukraine regardless of claims of neutrality. On Thursday, Xi met Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a regional gathering in Uzbekistan, and throughout the assembly, Putin thanked Xi for his “balanced” strategy to the Ukrainian disaster and blasted Washington’s “ugly” insurance policies.

Li’s assembly with Yoon attracts eager consideration as a result of Yoon final month skipped an in-person assembly with U.S. Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who traveled to Seoul after a high-stakes journey to Taiwan. Yoon, who was on a trip, spoke by cellphone with Pelosi however confronted home criticism that he deliberately shunned her to not provoke China. Yoon was the one head of state who didn’t meet Pelosi face-to-face throughout her Asian journey that additionally included Singapore, Malaysia and Japan.

Kim Heung-kyu, director of the U.S.-China Coverage Institute at Ajou College in South Korea, stated Li’s go to has a distinct nature from Pelosi’s as a result of she got here right here after the contentious Taiwan journey. However he stated China would nonetheless doubtless see the symbolic significance in Li assembly a South Korean president whom Pelosi failed to fulfill.

Key matters for discussions throughout Li’s go to will doubtless be Seoul’s plans to make sure a extra secure operation of a U.S. missile protection system in South Korea which China views as a safety menace; a Chinese language function in curbing North Korean nuclear threats: and the right way to promote secure provide chains, some specialists say.

South Korea and China will doubtless reaffirm their respective positions on these points, with Li anticipated to relay Chinese language positions on them in a transparent method, stated Professor Kim Han-kwon on the Korea Nationwide Diplomatic Academy.

There are worries that Yoon’s tilt towards Washington may set off financial retaliation by China because it did when South Korea in 2017 allowed america to put the Terminal Excessive-Altitude Space Protection system, or THAAD, on its soil. China, which says its radar system can spy on its territory, suspended group excursions to South Korea and carried out an unofficial boycott of South Korean merchandise.

Kim, the academy professor, stated China can be extra cautious this time as a result of launching such financial retaliations gained’t give China what it desires, would push South Korea nearer to america and would worsen anti-Chinese language sentiments in South Korea.

“Within the case of the THAAD disputes, China shook public opinions in South Korea and had South Korea undergo financial losses,” he stated. “However finally, they didn’t get the THAAD scrapped and anti-China sentiments grew in South Korea. There was additionally public reevaluation about boosting the Korea-U.S. alliance and a South Korea-U.S.-Japan safety cooperation.”

The traditional operation of the THAAD base in southern South Korea has been undermined as a result of native protests attempting to dam the entry of supplies and tools to the set up. China just lately claimed South Korea had agreed to restrict the bottom’s operation, which Yoon’s authorities has denied.

South Korea, the world’s Tenth-largest economic system, is a serious provider of semiconductors, cars, smartphones and different digital merchandise. This may make it a horny accomplice to each america and China, some specialists say.

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“South Korea has a vital strategic standing for each the U.S. and China, like a linchpin for them,” stated Kim, the institute director. “Until the Yoon Suk Yeol authorities brazenly pursues an anti-China coverage, China will doubtless additional stress a message of amity and cooperation to South Korea, somewhat than pressures, conflicts and confrontations.”

Cooperative relations with China are important for Seoul and Washington’s hopes to persuade North Korea to surrender its nuclear program. Whereas there are questions on how a lot affect China has on North Korea, it’s nonetheless believed to have the best leverage over Pyongyang amongst regional powers as a result of it’s North Korea’s final main diplomatic ally and principal financial pipeline.

From a Chinese language strategic viewpoint, some observers say North Korea’s conventional function as a bulwark towards U.S. affect on the Korean Peninsula has elevated amid the protracted China-U.S. competitors. In Could, China and Russia vetoed a U.S.-led try to impose new sanctions on North Korea on the U.N. Safety Council over its missile exams this 12 months.

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