06/26/2013, 00.00
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Seoul and Beijing ready to work together to rein in Pyongyang

The South Korean president is leaving tomorrow for China, where she will meet Xi Jinping. Some analysts are optimistic that the two sides can reach a solution to stop North Korean threats. Economic relations are also on the agenda. Bilateral trade exceeded US$ 53 billion last year.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - Relations with North Korea, bilateral trade and peace in East Asia are the main topics on the agenda of Chinese President Xi Jinping and his South Korean counterpart, Park Geun-hye, who begins a three-day visit to China tomorrow.  In addition to Beijing, the South Korean delegation will travel to Xi'an and Shanghai. It also includes a large group of investors, who are ready to sign new contracts with China.

The problem posed by North Korea, which is less and less inclined to listen to Beijing with regard to its foreign policy, tops the agenda as both sides seek a shared solution.

With the death of the 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong-il and the rise to power of his son Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang is increasingly out of control.

In addition to threats and propaganda, North Korea has pursued nuclear and missile tests to show that it can even hit the United States.

President Park told senior South Korean officials that any peace-building initiative with North Korea "largely depends on how much co-operation she can get from China".

Although Beijing is Pyongyang's last ally, relations between the two countries have deteriorated. In the last UN resolutions, Beijing voted against its ally for conducting a nuclear test in February 2013.

For some Korean analysts, the timing is perfect to reach a solution. "When Xi met Obama recently, the leaders prided themselves on being on the same page regarding North Korea's nuclear situation, and when Park met Obama recently, the outcome was the same," said one expert. "It is only logical that Beijing and Seoul will find common ground now too," he added.

Eyes are also on the economy, an important issue for both nations. South Korea and China established diplomatic relations in 1992, following decades of tensions going back to the Korean War. Since then, the two countries have made strides in their economic and trade relations, with China overtaking the United States as South Korea's top economic partner with bilateral trade exceeding US$ 53 billion the last year.

For Prof Jin Canrong, from the School of International Studies at Renmin University, Seoul could serve as a bridge between Beijing and Washington.

"South Korea needs to be friend both superpowers; [. . .] a bridge between China and the United States," he said, something that Seoul is already doing that to some extent.

"The strategists in Seoul are very clever," he explained. "With Washington, they stress the common value of democracy and with Beijing, they talk about the cultural value instead, which is Confucianism."

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