A photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) seen opposite a photo of South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Observers will watch carefully for signs of further improvements in China-South Korea relations when President Moon Jae-in visits Beijing next week for a state visit. The highpoint will be a summit meeting between Moon and President Xi Jinping.

The visit will take place from December 13 to 16.

Though Moon met with Xi on two previous occasions on the sidelines of multilateral conferences in July and November, there are hopes that more significant progress in bilateral ties will be made at the upcoming summit.

The two leaders informally agreed to normalize ties that were damaged by a flap over the deployment of a US antimissile system when they met in mid-November during the APEC meeting in Danang, Vietnam.

Seoul now says it will not accept any additional US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries and that it won’t participate with the US in a regional missile defense network. It also says it won’t join the US and Japan in a trilateral military alliance.

China, in return, is easing the economic retaliations it imposed on South Korea over THAAD.

Moon is expected to meet with Xi on December 14. His state visit is taking place against the backdrop of a November 29 long-range missile test by Pyongyang that has heightened tensions in the region.

“During the summit, Moon and Xi will evaluate the development of the two countries’ 25-year-old relationship and discuss a plan to further advance bilateral ties,” Korea JoongAng Daily quoted Blue House spokesman Park Soo-hyun as saying. “Moon will also discuss various issues of mutual interest, particularly cooperative measures for the peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear crisis.”

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