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S. Korea, China still arranging 'specific date' for Xi's visit: Beijing

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

BEIJING, June 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and China are still arranging the "specific date" for an upcoming visit by President Xi Jinping to South Korea, China's foreign ministry said Thursday, expressing hope that the trip will boost bilateral relations.

Xi has been widely expected to make a state visit to South Korea in the first week of July for a summit meeting with President Park Geun-hye. Japanese media reports, including one by Kyodo news agency, said earlier in the day that Xi will make a two-day visit to Seoul from July 3.

"The two sides are in close communications on the specific date of the visit," China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular press briefing, when asked about the Japanese media reports.

"The relevant information will be released in a timely fashion," Hua said, voicing hopes that the upcoming visit will help promote bilateral ties.

"Through President Xi's visit to South Korea, we hope that we can further promote the development of our bilateral relationship so that we can make a positive contribution to the peace and stability of Northeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific as a whole," Hua said.

North Korea's nuclear ambitions and ongoing free trade negotiations between Seoul and Beijing are expected to top the agenda of the forthcoming summit.

Diplomatic efforts to induce North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons have so far produced little progress.

Although South Korea and China have yet to formally announce a date for Xi's visit to Seoul, a top Chinese general told a group of retired South Korean generals this week that the visit would "soon" take place.

Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, made the comments during a meeting on Tuesday in Beijing with the former South Korean generals, China's defense ministry said in a statement posted on its website late Wednesday.

"Sun said that Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit the ROK (South Korea) soon," the statement said.

Sun also raised the issue of what he calls a "right-leaning" move by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"Currently, the right-leaning Abe administration runs against the trend of history, which rings the alarm bell for us to prevent the historical tragedy from happening again," Sun told the former South Korean generals, according to the statement.

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