• Chinese secretary of state Wang Yi will make a two-day visit to Seoul for talks together with his South Korean counterpart, Chung Euiyong, on bilateral relations and therefore the North Korea issue, Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman said, “The two sides will exchange views on a good range of problems with mutual interest, including bilateral relations between the two countries, things on the Korean Peninsula and regional and international issues”.

The ministry said that each side would hold a separate meeting to explore ways to promote cultural exchanges before the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations next year. Wang’s trip comes amid stalled negotiations aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs reciprocally for U.S. sanctions relief, which fell apart in 2019. A reactivation of inter Korean hotlines boosted hopes for a restart of the denuclearisation talks. 

But North Korea stopped answering the hotlines as South Korea and therefore the us began their annual military exercises last month, which Pyongyang has warned could trigger a security crisis.

On the opposite side, North Korea administered successful tests of a replacement long range cruise missile seen by analysts as possibly the country’s first such weapon with a nuclear capability.

The missiles are “a strategic weapon of great significance” and flew 1,500 km before hitting their targets and falling into the country’s body of water during the tests. The latest test highlighted steady progress in Pyongyang’s weapons program here amid a gridlock over talks aimed toward dismantling the North’s nuclear and missile programs reciprocally for U.S. sanctions relief.

The talks have stalled since 2019. It is unclear whether North Korea has mastered the technology needed to create warheads sufficiently small to be carried on a aircraft , but leader Kim Jong Un said earlier this year that developing smaller bombs may be a top goal. A day before Wang’s arrival, the chief nuclear negotiators of South Korea , the us and Japan will presumably meet in Tokyo.

South Korea and China could also discuss a visit to Seoul by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which had been expected early last year but was postponed amid the pandemic.

The Korea Joongang Daily newspaper analyzed the upcoming visit of Wang Yi. Amid continued Sino-U.S. tensions, there’s a focus on what role China can bring back the table to get the North to return to denuclearization negotiations, especially as Pyongyang has been mum to Washington’s offer for talks without conditions over the past several months. The two sides could discuss engaging Pyongyang on the occasion of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games next February, including the likelihood of another inter-Korean summit. 

The Tokyo Olympics held in July had been considered as such a chance for engagement, but such anticipation fizzled with North Korea not participating within the Summer Games over Covid-19 concerns and South Korea and Japan failing to rearrange a leaders’ summit. This comes as some Western countries are calling for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics to protest China’s human rights issues.

Despite bellicose rhetoric threatening aserious security crisis,North Korea didn’t conduct any notable military provocation during the Seoul-Washington summertime military exercise last month.

However, Pyongyang may have restarted its main reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex in July after leaving it dormant for about two and a half years, consistent with a recent report by the International nuclear energy Agency. North Korea made a serious military parade to organize for its founding anniversary. Such major parades are often occasions for Pyongyang to unveil its newest military assets or send a message to Seoul and Washington. 

A diplomatic source said that September to October “may be the optimal time to try to restart the social process on the Korean Peninsula, and actually , the last opportunity,” as well because the last chance for Beijing to convince Pyongyang to return to talks. Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Seoul and Beijing. Seoul’s Foreign Ministry hopes that this meeting will function an important opportunity to explore various ways for the future-oriented development of bilateral relations, ahead of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the 2 countries next year.

The two sides are expected to line up a bilateral committee to market a year of South Korea-China cultural exchanges from 2021 to 2022 to mark the anniversary. Additionally, Chinese President Xi Jinping has said he will make a visit to South Korea once the Covid-19 situation improves to reciprocate Moon Jae-in’s trip to Beijing in December 2017, and such a visit might be another issue to be discussed between the ministers. When asked a few visit by Beijing’s top envoy to Seoul, Wang Wenbin, a spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said during a press briefing that China and South Korea are “friendly close neighbors” and “have always maintained communication and exchange at various levels.

” On recent reports that the UN Security Council is discussing easing sanctions on Pyongyang amid Covid-19 difficulties, spokesman Wang said, “China has consistently called on the Security Council to activate the provisions on modifying sanctions in North Korea-related resolutions as soon as possible in light of the developments of things on the Korean Peninsula and make necessary adjustments to the sanctions, especially those concerning people’s livelihood. 

This is in line with the spirit of the resolutions, will help ease the humanitarian situation and people’s livelihood in North Korea, and can also help create conditions for and inject impetus into the political settlement of the Korea issue.” The Chinese envoy’s visit comes amid speculation that South Korea could also be asked to hitch the U.S.-led Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance which involving the us , Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 

The U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee passed a National Defense Authorization Act bill for financial year 2022 that seeks to expand the U.S.-led intelligence-sharing mechanism to incorporate South Korea, Japan, India and Germany.

The Five Eyes program dates back to U.S. and British intelligence cooperation during war II and evolved during the conflict era as a mechanism for monitoring the Soviet Union . An expansion of the exclusive Five Eyes network could be reflective of U.S. efforts to unite its allies to counter China’s growing dominance within the Indo-Pacific region. Japan, India and Australia also are a neighborhood of the U.S.-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, a security cooperation mechanism led by the us and seen as how to contain China.

Separately, the highest nuclear envoys of South Korea , the us and Japan are within the process of scheduling trilateral talks in Tokyo, reportedly to debate humanitarian assistance to the North. Noh Kyu-duk, Seoul’s nuclear envoy, met with his U.S. counterpart Sung Kim twice within the past month, indicating close coordination during what is considered by Seoul to be an important window of time to bring Pyongyang back to dialogue.

They last met trilaterally with their Japanese counterpart, Takehiro Funakoshi, in Seoul in June. Spokesman Choi told reporters when asked a few trilateral meeting, “Our government is constant efforts to speak and cooperate closely with the international community, including the us , to advance the social process on the Korea .”