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Defense minister to visit China this week

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin will depart for China on Thursday for a three-day schedule that includes talks with his Chinese counterpart and other top government officials there, officials here said Tuesday.

During their talks slated for Friday, Kim and Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie will discuss a wide range of regional security issues including those concerning North Korea and ways to bolster bilateral military exchanges, they said.

The talks between the two defense chiefs will be the first since the two North Korean attacks on the South that killed 50 South Koreans including two civilians last year. South Korea-China defense talks were last held in May 2009 in Beijing.

After their talks, they are to issue a joint press announcement for the first time, officials said.

“In the past, both countries separately made announcements to the press following the defense talks. However, the decision to issue a joint press announcement represents that the two countries share interests in regional security and that they have a strong will to carry out agreements that may come out of the talks,” Defense Ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok told reporters.

Kim said that in the press announcement, the two sides may express their will to commit themselves to deterring North Korean provocations.

Sources said that in the announcement they will also include measures to expand bilateral human exchanges and whether to hold a high-level military strategy meeting.

“We expect the visit to China this time to serve as an opportunity to elevate the ‘strategic partnership’ ― which was declared in 2009 by both heads of state ― to a new level,” the Defense Ministry said in a press release.

Kim is also set to meet with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and Gen. Chen Bingde, chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. The Korean defense chief will also visit key army and air force bases in China, officials said.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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