Chinese President Xi Jinping said Saturday he will seriously consider a visit to South Korea when he met with South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo on the sidelines of the Asian Games, an official said.
Xi brought up the issue first during the meeting with Han in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, just before the opening ceremony, the official said.
"This means that President Xi knows it is his turn to visit South Korea," the official said on condition of anonymity, adding that Xi's visit has "long been delayed."
Xi last visited South Korea in 2014. President Yoon Suk Yeol extended an invitation to Xi when they met on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, in November 2022.
During the meeting with Han, Xi also expressed support for inter-Korean reconciliation and pledged continued efforts for peace on the Korean Peninsula after Han asked China to play a constructive role, according to First Vice Foreign Minister Chang Ho-jin.
Han made the request while briefing Xi on President Yoon Suk Yeol's "Audacious Initiative" policy designed to offer massive economic assistance to North Korea in exchange for its denuclearization steps, according to Chang.
Xi also said China appreciates Seoul's efforts to resume the long-suspended annual three-way summit between South Korea, China and Japan, and that Beijing welcomes the holding of a trilateral summit at an appropriate time, Chang said.
The trilateral summit, which began in 2008, was last held in 2019.
The commitment to cooperation also comes ahead of a scheduled high-level meeting between South Korea, China and Japan in Seoul next Tuesday. The meeting will bring together South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Chung Byung-won; Takehiro Funakoshi, Japan's senior deputy foreign minister; and Nong Rong, China's assistant minister of foreign affairs.
"We will make efforts to ensure that the summit can be held promptly, starting with the high-level meeting next week and proceeding through the foreign ministerial conference," Han was quoted by Chang as saying.
Han asked Xi for China's support for Seoul's efforts to host the 2030 World Expo in the city of Busan, and Xi said in response that China will "seriously consider" the request.South Korea has also been making efforts to improve relations with China, which critics say have recently cooled due to what they describe as Yoon's attempts to bring South Korea closer to the United States and Japan, a departure from the previous Moon Jae-in administration's greater emphasis on China.
Saturday's meeting took place against the backdrop of recent rapprochement between Pyongyang and Moscow, following a rare summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Han explained our side's bold ideas and recent developments related to the Korean Peninsula situation, and urged China to continue playing a constructive role," Chang said.
The issue of a potential arms deal between Russia and North Korea was not mentioned during Saturday's meeting, the official said.
This marks the first meeting between Han and Xi, Chang said. It is also the first visit by a South Korean Prime Minister to China in four-and-a-half years.
"I hope to cultivate a healthy and mature relationship between South Korea and China, grounded in mutual respect, mutual benefit and common interests," Han was quoted by the Prime Minister's Office as saying.
In light of the ongoing threats posed by North Korea, Han further emphasized that the high-level talks between Seoul and Beijing demonstrate both countries' commitment to elevating their relations to the next level.
"Both countries are not only grappling with heightened regional tensions due to North Korea's persistent provocations but also facing global challenges, such as economic uncertainty and disruptions in supply chains," Han said.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping, right, and Korean Prime Minister Han Duck Soo meet in Hangzhou, China, where the 19th ASian Games are taking place, Sept. 23. Courtesy of Prime Minister's Office
Han also conveyed President Yoon's special regards and hoped for the successful hosting of the Asian Games, the office said.
Earlier in the day, as part of his two-day trip, Han attended a luncheon hosted by Xi for the leaders of countries competing in the Asian Games.
Han is accompanied by Chang and Vice Culture Minister Jang Mi-ran, a former Olympic gold medalist in weightlifting.
Han earlier told reporters that Seoul is committed to maintaining an amicable relationship with Beijing, emphasizing that his upcoming trip to the Asian Games aims to demonstrate Seoul's dedication to enhancing South Korea-China relations.
South Korea has usually sent the culture minister to such events. (Yonhap)