China's No. 4 Man to Visit Seoul Thursday

A top Chinese official will arrive here today for a five-day visit to discuss North Korea¡¯s nuclear weapons program and the lingering dispute over China¡¯s distortion of the history ancient Korean kingdom of Koguryo, sources said Wednesday.

Jia Qinglin, chairman of the People¡¯s Political Consultative Conference, will fly to Seoul aboard a private jet at the invitation of National Assembly Speaker Kim One-ki, a legislative staff said askingnot to be named.

Jia, who is ranked fourth in the hierarchy of the Communist Party ofChina, will meet President Roh Moo-hyun and Prime Minister Lee Hai-chan as well as Speaker Kim and some South Korean Assemblymen.A former Beijing mayor, Jia is known as one of the closest confidants to former Chinese president Jiang Zemin who still exerts significant influence in China as chairman of the Communist Party commissioncontrolling the country¡¯s military.His visit comes days after Seoul and Beijing reached a loosely worded five-point ``verbal agreement,¡¯¡¯ which patched up their months-long dispute on the ancient Korean kingdom of Koguryo (37 B.C.-668 A.D.).

After intense negotiations involving vice foreign ministers in Seoul, China gave a verbal promise on Tuesday that it would no longer layclaim to the kingdom nor would it make any other distortion attemptat the government level.

Appearing on a local radio program yesterday morning, Vice Foreign Minister Choi Young-jin, who led the negotiation with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei, stressed that damage to bilateral ties is inevitable if Beijing once again attempts to lay claim to Koguryo in breachof the accord.

``The Chinese government must have learned the seriousness of the issue. I think there will be no distortion attempt at the government level,¡¯¡¯ he said. ``If there is, it won¡¯t be tolerated and the Chinese government will have to face the consequences of damage to thecountries¡¯ relations.¡¯¡¯In the meantime, Chinese media outlets had been keeping quiet untilyesterday afternoon about the agreement, which Seoul officials argueis still diplomatically binding.

The silence gave rise to suspicions that the Chinese government maybe restricting reporting of the history dispute.

The only media outlet in the world¡¯s most populous country that reported the agreement was Hong Kong-based Wenweipo. Quoting foreign news reports, the paper reported the agreement in relative detail, including the negative reactions from South Korean lawmakers.

On the other hand, Jia¡¯s trip also comes as North Korea has throwninto doubt further six-party talks on its nuclear weapons program byratcheting up scathing attacks on U.S. President George W. Bush.

The communist country called Bush a ``fascist tyrant¡¯¡¯ and ``humantrash¡¯¡¯ on Tuesday, arguing it longer ``pins any hope on the six-party talks¡¯¡¯ due to Washington¡¯s ``hostile policy¡¯¡¯ against it.The North¡¯s rhetoric came in response to remarks by Bush last weekin which he called North Korean leader Kim Jong-il a ``tyrant¡¯¡¯ and urged joint efforts by regional players to force Kim to give up his nuclear ambitions.In the third round of six-party talks held in late June, the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia agreed to meet again by the end of September for another round of talks. A proposal has also beenmade to hold a working meeting ahead of the main session.

The North has already indicated a boycott of the working-level talks, accusing the U.S. of destroying the foundation for the negotiations by sticking to its hostile policy.

Jia¡¯s talks in Seoul are expected to be dominated by the history dispute, which has been placed to one side for the moment by the recent agreement, and the stalled process to facilitate the fourth roundof six-way talks on resolving the 22-month nuclear standoff, the Assembly official said.

By Ryu Jin / Staff Reporter

(Korea Times 2004-8-25)