SEOUL: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in South Korea on Saturday ahead of a trilateral Northeast Asian leadership summit that Beijing hopes will improve trade links and help bolster its slowing economy.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was expected to fly in early Sunday ahead of the afternoon three-way sit-down with Li and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye.
The trilateral gathering resumes what was originally an annual summit mechanism until tensions between Northeast Asia’s three largest economies in 2012 triggered a lengthy hiatus.
Li was due to have a separate meeting with Park later Saturday, with the issue of nuclear armed North Korea likely to figure high on the agenda.
Ties between Seoul and Beijing have warmed considerably in recent years. Park and Chinese President Xi Jinping have met on half-a-dozen occasions and are believed to enjoy a good personal rapport.
But Park faces a delicate diplomatic balancing act with Beijing and Washington.
China and South Korea already have strong trade ties, and Seoul wants Beijing to exercise its considerable leverage over Pyongyang to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
But the South’s 60-year military alliance with the United States remains the cornerstone of its national defense, and it does not want to become a pawn in the battle between China and the US for influence in Asia.