‘Xi’s visit remains unchanged’

08-Feb-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha said Thursday that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Korea in the first half of 2020 is still expected to go ahead despite the outbreak of a new coronavirus in China.

“The agreement between the two countries that President Xi will pay a visit to Korea in the first half of the year is still effective,” Kang said during a press conference at the foreign ministry in Seoul.

“In close coordination with China, we are set to push forward the diplomatic schedule without any disruption.”

When President Moon Jae-in travelled to Beijing last December for a trilateral summit with Japan and China, it was agreed that Xi would visit Seoul in the first half of the year. This would be the first trip to Korea by Xi in six years since the Chinese leader’s last visit in July 2014.

Although the government has yet to specify the date, Xi was expected to come in March or early April.

However, the Chinese government has had difficulty in containing the newly identified coronavirus, raising speculation that the fast-spreading epidemic could derail the visit.

The foreign minister remained cautious regarding growing calls for the government to impose an extended entry ban on foreign nationals coming from areas of China outside Hubei Province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. Currently the government has banned the entry of foreigners who have traveled to Hubei Province within the past 14 days.

“The government has been continuing to check the situation based on a comprehensive review of the spread of the virus in China, international trends and our domestic quarantine response,” Kang said.

“If necessary, the government will consider taking additional action.”

The minister added the government also needs to consider recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Although the WHO declared the coronavirus as a global health emergency, its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there was no need for measures that “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade” as part of global efforts to contain the coronavirus.

With regarding to the stalled negotiations on defense cost-sharing between Seoul and Washington, Kang said the gap between the two countries was “still big,” but they now have a better understanding about each other and are working to reach an agreement.

Last month, the United States Forces Korea notified its 9,000 Korean employees of a possible furlough starting April if an agreement was not reached. The minister said, “We can’t predict when a deal will be made, but we’ll keep up with the negotiations while fully noting the need to protect the Korean workers’ interests.”



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