Seoul hopes for an early implementation of recently signed free trade agreement

South Korean President Park Geun-hye will lead a massive business delegation to Beijing on Wednesday to attend the Sept 3 military parade marking the 70th anniversary of China’s victory over Japan in World War II.

The presidential office said on Monday that the visit also looks to push forward an early implementation of the Free Trade Agreement between the neighbors and to realize “fruitful results” in the economic field.

Beijing and Seoul signed the FTA on June 1. It is expected to expand bilateral trade by $2.7 billion in the first year after taking effect. In 2014, two-way trade reached nearly $300 billion.

Park, who is to stay in China until Friday, will bring a 156-strong delegation comprising 128 companies. They will attend a bilateral commercial forum and seek business partners.

South Korea’s exports, which account for about half of its economy, sank 14.7 percent from a year earlier in August, the biggest drop in six years, partially due to weak demand from China, South Korea’s top trade partner.

Zhang Liangui, a Korean studies expert at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said major negotiations on the FTA between Beijing and Seoul had concluded and the agreement was legally effective.

“The next phase will be pushing for a smooth implementation. Park’s trip will certainly give this a big boost and consolidate her ties with Chinese leaders,” Zhang said.

Park decided to come to Beijing despite apparent opposition from the United States. Seoul said her attendance is conducive to regional peace and cooperation.

Kyodo News cited US diplomatic sources on Aug 9 as saying that the Obama administration had warned that if Park attended the parade, it would send a false message to the world that China had cracked the US-South Korea alliance. The report, however, has been denied by Seoul.

Seoul’s Yonhap News Agency said that Park’s decision to go to Beijing signals changes in the diplomatic pattern in Northeast Asia.

South Korea and China were both victims of Japanese aggression in World War II. Both have urged Japan to face up to its wartime history, admit its atrocities and issue a sincere apology.

The presidential office has also said that Park will discuss with Chinese leaders the Korean Peninsula issue and efforts to stabilize the financial market.

Park will be among 30 heads of state and government leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the military parade. The attendees also include government representatives from 19 countries and heads of 10 international organizations, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

When meeting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, President Xi Jinping said that they should seek more cooperation in areas including finance, minerals and agriculture to benefit the people of both countries.

Venezuela has sent a guard of honor to join the parade, showing that the Venezuelan government and the president attach great importance to the development of China-Venezuela ties, Xi said.

Maduro said that China’s victory in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) had great historical meaning, and Venezuela would like to enhance cooperation with China in areas including energy and finance.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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(China Daily 09/02/2015 page3)