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China-ROK Ties Continue to Grow
President of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Roh Moo-hyun arrives in Beijing this morning for a significant state visit to China at the invitation of President Hu Jintao.

This is Roh's first China tour since he assumed presidency in February.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi greeted Roh Moo-hyun at the airport. Roh's entourage included his wife Kwon Yang-sook, 15 senior ROK officials and 30 entrepreneurs.

The leaders of the two countries are expected to set "the direction for developing China-ROK relations" as well as "the expansion and deepening of the substantial co-operative relations in fields such as politics, economy, trade, culture and personnel exchange," ROK Ambassador to China Kim Ha-joong told China Daily.

The meeting of the two leaders will surely help "further consolidate the friendship and mutual trust between them," Kim said.

From the perception of regional security, "a constructive partnership between Beijing and Seoul will contribute to the peace process on the Korean Peninsula," said Yang Bojiang, director of the Northeast Asian Studies Division under China's Institute of Contemporary International Relations. China and the ROK established diplomatic relations in August 1992. The past decade has witnessed comprehensive and vigorous development of China-ROK relations in all fields. Ambassador Kim described it as "unprecedented" in the diplomatic history of the two nations.

On the basis of mutual understanding and respect, the political relations between Beijing and Seoul have become increasingly mature. The high-level leadership of the two countries have visited and met with one another frequently.

In 1998, then ROK President Kim Dae-joong visited China and declared with then President Jiang Zemin that China and the ROK would establish a co-operative partnership oriented towards the 21st century. During Premier Zhu Rongji's tour to Seoul in October 2000, the two countries agreed to advance ties to a new stage of comprehensive collaboration. High-level political co-operation on various international matters has furthered advances for diplomatic relations.

At the same time, the partnership has made positive contributions to maintaining the stability and development of East Asia, as well as the world at large.

Besides the growing governmental exchanges, contact between the two populations has been expanding as well.

Sun Cheng, a research fellow with China Institute of International Studies, mentioned an increase in the number of ROK students studying in China. Also, more and more Chinese tourists are visiting the ROK.

"The Chinese language has become very popular among ROK students and that country's pop culture is also very much enjoyed by the young people in China," Sun said. "Hanbong (Chinese style) and hanliu (ROK fashion) have become two new pop words in the two countries respectively."

Based on improving political and non-governmental relations, the military ties between China and the ROK have also become increasingly close. The security consultation mechanism between the two sides has promoted the establishment of mutual trust and strengthened co-ordination and communication, according to Yang Bojiang.

Trade and economic exchanges between the two countries have always been the highlight in China-ROK relations. According to Sun, since 1992, the trade value between China and ROK has been growing at the rate of 25 per cent annually. With trade value in 2002 topping US$44 billion, each has become the third largest trading partner of the other. As China's fourth largest investor, the ROK's investment in the nation has so far surpassed US$15 billion. From January to May this year, the trade value had reached US$22.7 billion, an increase by 44.5 per cent compared with the same period of last year.

As Kim and Sun pointed out, the major driving force of such a fruitful relationship is economic interests. Both Beijing and Seoul have benefited a great deal economically due to their financial complementarity. In fact, it was the development of the economic relations that acted as a major catalyst to set up diplomatic ties.

Experts predicted that with the further expansion of the Chinese market as a result of China's entry into the World Trade Organization, China-ROK trade and economic co-operation will reach new heights in the years to come.

The ongoing regional economic co-operation as well as development of high-tech, environmental protection and China's "developing the west" campaign have provided both countries with new grounds for further collaboration, Sun noted.

Still, security interests weigh heavily in developing China-ROK relations. Both countries need a peaceful and stable Korean Peninsula and advocate the resolution of the presence of nuclear weapons on this peninsula.

Regarding the emergence of the nuclear issue last October, both countries share a common stance and advocate a peaceful solution through dialogue.

A favourable surrounding environment is needed by China to concentrate on developing its economy, which is the primary objective of its national development. Perceiving a peaceful reunification of the two Koreas is in the interests of not only the two sides of the Korean Peninsula, but also the region and the world at large. Beijing supports Roh's position to continue the policy of seeking reconciliation instead of confrontation with Pyongyang.

Both Kim and Sun attributed the geographic proximity, historical connections and cultural similarities between the two nations to the surprisingly rapid growth of bilateral ties.

The fruitful and speedy development of China-ROK relations, as Sun said, demonstrates that "the bilateral constructive partnership conforms to the common interests of the two peoples and nations."

Kim did not think that there were fundamental political disparities between China and the ROK, and experts foresee a promising future for China-ROK relations.

Roh's visit to China is viewed as a part of the consistent effort by both sides to maintain a positive trend in the bilateral relationship's development. In a world of accelerated globalization, the co-operation between members of the international community is constantly expanding.

As two major Asian powers, China and ROK should make responsible joint efforts to promote regional economic development and maintain the security and stability of both nations and the world.

(China Daily July 7, 2003)

S. Korean President Leaves for Visit to China
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