South Korean Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan concluded his three-day trip to China Thursday. The mounting bilateral trade and stalled six-party talks topped the agenda between the Asian neighbors.
"South Korea will make joint efforts with China to further expand bilateral economic and trade cooperation," said Lee in his talks with Premier Wen Jiabao.
South Korea will also actively push forward negotiations on establishing a free trade agreement (FTA); expand bilateral cooperative spheres; and encourage South Korean businesses to invest in China's western areas, said Lee, who was on his first visit to China since he became prime minister.
China and South Korea witnessed rapid growth in trade in recent years. In 2004, the volume of bilateral trade reached US$90 billion, a year-on-year increase of 42.4 percent. Bilateral trade is expected to exceed US$100 billion this year.
China is South Korea's largest trade partner while South Korea is China's fourth largest.
Wen spoke highly of bilateral economic and trade cooperation and proposed further growth of bilateral reciprocal cooperation. China is to map out a long-term plan and strive for the early launching of government negotiations on setting up the FTA, said Wen.
The fast-growth trade ties between the two nations has made it possible to quicken the FTA process. In 2004, China and South Korea reached a consensus to develop a non-governmental joint study of the feasibility of a FTA. The two countries officially launched the non-government FTA feasibility study on March 20 this year.
"With closer economic ties and about one trillion dollars trade within East Asia, the interdependence in the region has markedly increased. China will, in an active way, make joint efforts with South Korea to push forward the FTA process," Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai said last week at a China-South Korea business forum.
Bo said Asia's current lax economic integration process has lagged behind the EU and North America Free Trade Area and held down the whole Asian economy.
Besides agreeing to further bilateral ties, the two Asian giant economies share similar views on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. Both countries want to see an earlier resumption of the stalled six-party talks.
The Chinese premier urged Tuesday all parties concerned to take the opportunity and show more flexibility and sincerity to create a positive atmosphere for the early resumption of the six-party talks.
The Chinese side will go on with its efforts and maintain close coordination and cooperation with South Korea to this end, said Wen during his talks with Lee.
In order to end the nuclear issue peacefully, China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the US, Russia, South Korea and Japan have convened three rounds of six-party nuclear talks in Beijing. The fourth round has been delayed because of the US "hostile policy" as claimed by the DPRK government.
Lee highlighted China's important role in the six-party talks, saying that his country will make joint efforts with China to pull all sides related back to the negotiating tables at an earlier date.
(Xinhua News Agency June 24, 2005)