SEOUL – South Korean President Moon Jae-in will visit China next week, his office said Wednesday, as tensions soar over Pyongyang’s growing nuclear and missile threats.
Moon will make the trip not long after North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile on Nov. 29 in defiance of multiple sets of U.N. sanctions, prompting Washington to press Beijing to take a tougher stance against Pyongyang.
He will arrive in Beijing next Wednesday for a four-day state visit and hold a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss ways “to peacefully resolve North Korea’s nuclear issue,” the South Korean presidential office said.
Pyongyang claimed it has reached nuclear statehood with the success of its missile test last week, and that it can now target the entire United States.
This will be Moon’s first trip to China since taking office in May, and comes as the two countries seek to improve ties strained by Seoul’s deployment of a U.S. missile defense system.
The nations have been at loggerheads over the placement in South Korea of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which Seoul and Washington say is intended to defend against missile threats from nuclear-armed North Korea.
Beijing sees it as a threat to its own military capabilities. It has imposed a series of sanctions on South Korean firms and banned Chinese tour groups from going to the country in moves seen as economic retaliation.
China is South Korea’s biggest trading partner, and its measures have had a big impact on some of the South’s biggest companies, including retail conglomerate Lotte — which provided a golf course used for the THAAD deployment — and auto giant Hyundai.