South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters on Sept. 20, 2023, in New York City.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters on Sept. 20, 2023, in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

South Korea is seeking to have Chinese President Xi Jinping visit for the first time in about a decade, seeing a trip as turning a page in relations between the two that have shifted as Seoul more closely aligns itself with the U.S.

The office of President Yoon Suk Yeol is working to arrange a visit, a senior government official said over the weekend. The comments came after Xi met South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo on the sidelines of the Asian Games on Saturday and said he will “seriously consider” visiting South Korea, Yonhap News agency reported.

Yoon’s national security adviser Cho Tae-yong said in an interview with MBN cable TV Sunday that Xi’s visit would be difficult this year but possible next year.

“It is expected that this will be a turning point in Korea-China relations,” Cho said. “This is the goal we must achieve.”

The movement for a possible visit comes as the U.S. for months has been pressuring security partners including South Korea, the Netherlands, Taiwan and Japan to comply with sweeping curbs on the sale of advanced chips — a move seen as targeting China’s tech sector.

Xi last visited South Korea in July 2014, becoming the first Chinese leader to visit Seoul ahead of Pyongyang since China established diplomatic ties with South Korea in 1992. During his trip, he discussed ways on curbing North Korea’s atomic ambitions with then President Park Geun-hye and setting up direct won-yuan trading.

On Saturday, Xi said China and South Korea are close neighbors and inseparable partners, and the advancement of bilateral ties serves the common interests of both countries and bodes well for regional peace and development, state-owned Xinhua News reported.

South Korea is also working to revive a three-way summit with Japan and China — those talks last happened in 2019 and then stalled, initially due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then amid political tensions. South Korea’s ambassador to Tokyo said in an interview last week that high-level talks are underway for the summit to happen this year, noting that this wouldn’t affect Seoul’s ties with Washington.

The foreign ministers from South Korea and Japan met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly to help advance a three-way summit and senior officials from the three nations are set to meet in Seoul on Tuesday.

Yoon, a conservative, has worked with U.S. President Joe Biden to bolster security cooperation to take on threats such as North Korea’s nuclear program and Chinese assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region. Yoon has sought a delicate balancing between China, his country’s biggest trade partner, and the U.S., his country’s main security ally.

He’s also shown support for Biden administration calls to restructure global supply chains to reduce dependence on China, drawing criticism from Beijing.

Beijing has found itself under pressure in the wake of revived cooperation among South Korea, Japan and the U.S. that has bolstered joint military drills, including missile-defense exercises and information sharing. Their improving relations also led to a historic summit of Biden, Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in August.

©2023 Bloomberg News. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now