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China's vice premier arrives in S. Korea

Oct. 26, 2011 - 14:16 By

SEOUL, Oct. 26 (Yonhap) -- Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang arrived Wednesday in South Korea for a two-day visit that is expected to focus on efforts to revive the stalled six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear programs and expansion of the bilateral currency swap deal, officials said.

Li, widely expected to succeed Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao next year, was to meet President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik later in the day for talks on ways to increase bilateral cooperation as well as security situations on the Korean Peninsula, officials at the foreign ministry said.

Accompanied by some 80 Chinese officials, Li arrived at Seoul Airport in Seongnam, south of Seoul, at 11:40 a.m., a ministry official said.

On Monday, Li met North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during his three-day visit to Pyongyang and Kim repeated that Pyongyang is ready to return to the six-party talks without preconditions.

Li's visits to the two Koreas coincided with the second round of bilateral nuclear talks between North Korea and the United States in Geneva, where both sides reported some progress, but conceded that more discussions will be needed to narrow differences on outstanding issues.

China is the host nation of the six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., Russia and Japan. The multilateral forum has been at a standstill since April 2009 when the North left the negotiating table and then conducted its second nuclear test a month later.

South Korea and the U.S. have laid out a series of "pre-steps" before the resumption of the six-party talks. Among other preconditions, Seoul and Washington have insisted that Pyongyang suspend its uranium enrichment program and allow international inspectors to verify the suspension ahead of the aid-for-disarmament talks.

Later on Wednesday, South Korea and China plan to announce an expansion of bilateral won-yuan currency swap agreements from the current $26 billion to $50 billion or $60 billion, said an official at Seoul's finance ministry.

The planned expansion comes after South Korea signed a deal with Japan last week to increase their currency swap agreements to $70 billion from $13 billion to better protect itself from global financial turmoil. 

Li is the seventh-ranked member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China.

Relations between South Korea and China were upgraded to a strategic cooperative partnership in 2008. Since then, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee has visited South Korea every year. Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Seoul in August 2008, followed by Vice President Xi Jinping in December 2009 and Premier Wen Jiabao in May 2010.