South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited the former office of his country's provisional government in Chongqing on Saturday, highlighting the long history of friendship between South Korea and China, and their joint struggle against Japan's past imperialism.
The visit to the office of the provisional government marked the first of its kind by a South Korean president, according to the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. The provisional government operated in China during the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule of Korea.
The South Korean leader arrived here late Friday as part of his four-day state visit that earlier took him to Beijing.
His trip was largely aimed at holding a bilateral summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the third of its kind since Moon took office in May.
However, the trip also followed months of dispute between the two countries over the deployment of the THAAD U.S. missile defense system in South Korea.
Seoul and Beijing agreed to put their bilateral relationship back on the "normal track" in a joint statement issued Oct. 31.
Still, many believe China has yet to fully repair the bilateral ties with many of its apparent economic retaliations against South Korea and its goods still in place.
Chongqing has apparently been picked at the second and last destination in Moon's four-day China trip as it is home to the business operations of hundreds of South Korean firms believed to have suffered from the months of Chinese retaliation.
Xi acknowledged a recent setback in the South Korea-China relations in his bilateral summit with Moon on Thursday.
"China-South Korea relations experienced a setback due to the reason we all know. I am confident the president's visit will be an important opportunity for us to improve our relationship by paving a better way based on mutual respect and trust," he told Moon.
Moon called for a "new start."
"I believe that trust is most important not only in a relationship between persons but also between countries. I wish to solidify the foundation for a new era in the relationship between the two countries based on trust and friendship between us two leaders," the South Korean leader said.
Possibly signaling the start of an actual recovery in the bilateral relationship, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang said their economic cooperation may soon be resumed.
"I am well aware that communication channels between the economy and trade-related offices are currently suspended. The cooperation projects between the two countries that have been suspended may be resumed following President Moon Jae-in's visit this time," Li was quoted as saying while meeting the South Korean president in Beijing on Friday.
Following his visit to the site of the South Korean provisional government, Moon was set to visit a production facility of Hyundai Motor Co. here, according to his office Cheong Wa Dae.
He will also hold a meeting with Chen Miner, governor and Communist Party leader of Chongqing.
The South Korean president will return home later Saturday. (Yonhap)