July 24, 2024

A rough schedule for the coming dialogue was confirmed when Chinese Premier Li Qiang met South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul last month. Set up in 2002, the dialogue has been organised five times so far. It was upgraded to vice-ministerial level in 2020, when the Beijing-friendly Moon Jae-in was president of South Korea.

“The establishment of the 2+2 dialogue mechanism between China and the Republic of Korea … is in view of the needs of the development of bilateral relations,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian said in Beijing on Monday, referring to the official name for South Korea

“China will focus on exchanging views with South Korea on how to develop and improve [relations and] deepen exchanges and cooperation in various fields,” he added.

Meanwhile, Putin will travel to North Korea on Tuesday, the Kremlin has confirmed after months of speculation over the much-hyped trip. It will be the Russian leader’s first visit to the reclusive country in two decades.

Putin shakes hands with and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un during a meeting in Amur region, Russia, in September 2023. Photo: Pool via AFP

This comes amid reports that Moscow is seeking closer ties with Pyongyang as it tries to rebuild its international image following the damaging invasion of Ukraine.

Lin said the date for the dialogue “was agreed upon at an early stage” and had “no special relevance to other countries”.

However, Putin’s coming visit injects greater uncertainty into the situation in the peninsula, as North and South Korea mark new lows in ties. All economic cooperation has been suspended, raising fears of a military confrontation.

The South Korean intelligence agency told Yonhap that Moscow and Pyongyang were likely to set up close military cooperation that would allow Russia to intervene militarily in the Korean peninsula.

Seoul says North Korea may have sent nearly 5 million artillery shells to Russia and Putin is likely to seek even more when he visits Pyongyang.

South Korea and the United States have both warned against further military exchanges, as Russia is under United Nations sanctions over the Ukraine war.

China, which is seen as friendly with both Russia and North Korea as they confront US-led alliances in Asia, has yet to comment on Putin’s trip.

Regarding Tuesday’s dialogue with the senior Chinese delegation, the South Korean foreign ministry said the two sides would exchange views on “bilateral relations, Korean peninsula issues and other topics of interest including regional and international geopolitical situations”.

03:56

North Korean constitution change raises threat of nuclear war as it declares South its ‘top enemy’

North Korean constitution change raises threat of nuclear war as it declares South its ‘top enemy’

China-South Korea ties, traditionally strong on trade, have been tested in recent years amid Seoul’s deepening security cooperation with treaty ally Washington, which has stepped up regional groupings in its bid to “contain” Beijing.

However, there has been a gleam of light in recent weeks, with Beijing highlighting the need for a stable development of bilateral ties amid “challenges and difficulties”, and Seoul saying “South Korea is not in favour of a zero-sum game” in foreign relations.

Li and Yoon’s meeting in Seoul last month took place on the margins of a trilateral summit with Japan, another US defence ally.

The Chinese and South Korean leaders resumed negotiations on upgrading their bilateral free trade agreement, besides agreeing on Tuesday’s “2+2” dialogue.

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