China, South Korea Set for Their First Security Talks Since 2015

(Bloomberg) -- China and South Korea will hold their first high-level security talks in about nine years, with their discussions in Seoul expected to coincide with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s first trip to North Korea since 2000.

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The talks among vice-ministers in foreign affairs and lower-level defense officials will be held on Tuesday, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The two countries will exchange views on bilateral relations, the Korean Peninsula issues and other topics of interest including regional and international geopolitical situations,” it said in the statement.

The meeting follows talks between Chinese Premier Li Qiang and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol last month on the sidelines of a rare trilateral summit also involving Japan. Li was looking to persuade his neighbors to work with Beijing on keeping supply chains stable as Tokyo and Seoul have been drawing closer to the US.

China Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian said Monday at a regular press briefing that Beijing would exchange views “on improving and growing bilateral ties and deepening exchanges and cooperation in various areas.”

Beijing has been pushing back against the tightening of US chip export rules that are part of a broader effort to hobble China’s chipmaking industry over national security concerns.

Cooperation between Washington and its two powerful allies in Asia is expected to draw even closer this year. The US, South Korea and Japan will sign a deal to formalize their security partnership against threats from North Korea’s nuclear weapons, cementing ties before America inaugurates its next president in January, South Korean Defense Minister Shin Wonsik said in an interview.

China, which has been North Korea’s biggest benefactor for decades, has seen North Korea move closer to Russia since Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago. The US, South Korea and Japan have accused North Korean leader Kim Jong Un of supplying munitions to Putin for his war in exchange for aid propping up Pyongyang.

Russia and North Korea have denied the accusations. Putin is expected to be in Pyongyang on Tuesday and Wednesday, Yonhap News reported.

Seoul has detected at least 10,000 shipping containers being sent from North Korea to Russia, which could hold as many as 4.8 million artillery shells of the likes that Putin has used in his bombardment of Ukraine, Shin said. The defense minister expects Putin to ask for even more munitions and ballistic missiles from Kim during the visit.

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