Seoul delegates to China’s forum arrive, N. Korean counterparts due

SEOUL-- A South Korean delegation led by a ruling lawmaker close to the country's newly elect president arrived in Beijing on Saturday for an international economic forum also expected to be attended by North Korean officials.

The delegation led by Rep. Park Byeong-seug of the ruling Democratic Party arrived in Beijing earlier Saturday, according to earlier reports.

The delegation was set to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation scheduled to be held Sunday and Monday.

Park said he carried no special message from South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Still, he noted he was expected to meet China's ranking government officials.

Many in Seoul see the upcoming forum as an opportunity to mend Seoul's ties with Beijing that have gone sour over the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).

Moon has yet to take any action, but had repeatedly argued during his election campaigning that the THAAD deployment, decided by the former Seoul government, should be reviewed by the next administration.

The new South Korean president came into office Wednesday, only one day after a rare presidential by-election caused by the March 10 ouster of his predecessor Park Geun-hye over her corruption allegations.

In a telephone conversation immediately following Moon's inauguration this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping again explained the reasons for his country's opposition against the THAAD deployment in South Korea but agreed the countries needed to further improve their ties and cooperation.

Meanwhile, North Korea's state media reported that the country's delegation to the international forum in China headed to Beijing on Saturday.

"A DPRK government delegation led by Kim Yong Jae, minister of External Economic Relations, on Saturday left here to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation to be held in China," the North's Korean Central News Agency reported. DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Whether the delegates from the two Koreas will meet at the forum remains to be seen, but it would still mark a rare occasion for such an opportunity as the communist North has long been shunned from such forums amid international sanctions over its military provocations, including a series of nuclear tests.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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