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  ROK seeking to upgrade ties with neighbor  



Republic of Korea (ROK) President Lee Myung-bak's visit to China is aimed to upgrade bilateral relations and will dispel suggestions that he views China second to traditional allies the United States and Japan, ROK's ambassador has said.

"China and ROK both have seen a new leadership this year. Thus the main purpose of President Lee's visit at this time is to demonstrate he attaches great importance to our bilateral ties and that he is trying hard to bring it to a higher level," Shin Jung-seung told China Daily on Friday.

Lee's four-day China trip, beginning today and following his visits last month to the United States and Japan, is widely seen as an important leg of his tours to Seoul's key diplomatic partners.

However, Shin said it makes no sense to hype the sequence of Lee's visits.

"Sequence is not that important. What really makes sense is that our new president will finish visiting the United States, Japan and China, all key partners to Seoul, in a short time after taking office," the ambassador said, adding the sequence is determined by arrangements of every country.

Lee's visit will be a highly business-focused trip, accompanied by a delegation of 38 businesspeople.

His itinerary in China includes talks with leaders, a speech at Peking University, visits to selected ROK firms and meeting representatives of ROK residents.

About 800,000 ROK nationals live in China, the embassy said.

Lee will also visit Qingdao, Shandong province, which is home to more than 5,000 ROK firms.

China is ROK's top trading partner, with bilateral trade of $160 billion last year.

The businesspeople are scheduled to meet their Chinese partners to discuss cooperation on energy, finance, mobile communications and service, ROK media said.

Topics on the agenda also include the difficulties facing ROK companies in China, enlivening of investment, a bilateral FTA agreement and joint exploitation of third-country markets through technology cooperation.

Lee is also expected to talk with Chinese leaders about the regional stability of Northeast Asia, especially the Korean Peninsular nuclear issue.

"At present, it is the most important topic between China and ROK," Shin said.

"ROK is eager to work with China to protect peace and stability in Northeast Asia."

During the interview, the ambassador expressed sincere condolences to Sichuan quake victims on behalf of the ROK government and people.





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