South Korea holds talks with China amid row with Taiwan over diplomat visit

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By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – Senior South Korean diplomats will hold talks with their Chinese counterparts on Thursday following a diplomatic row with Taiwan over the cancellation of a visit by a senior Taipei official to an international forum. business in Seoul last week.

Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun and his aides are expected to meet online later Thursday with a team led by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng, the first such meeting since June 2017.

The two sides are expected to explore ways to reopen stalled denuclearization talks with North Korea and discuss other bilateral, regional and global issues, Seoul officials said.

The meeting comes at a delicate time as Taiwan filed a protest against South Korea’s revocation of its September invitation to Digital Minister Audrey Tang to speak at a conference last week in Seoul.

The Taipei Foreign Ministry called the move “crude” and summoned South Korea’s de facto acting ambassador to express its displeasure.

The ministry said South Korea cited “various aspects of the cross-strait issues” for its decision, but when Taiwan’s representative in Seoul separately requested an explanation, he received no response.

South Korea’s foreign ministry said the decision was made by the event’s organizers on the basis of “comprehensive considerations of all the circumstances”, without further details.

An official with the Seoul presidential Blue House said on Wednesday that the organizers had canceled the invitation in accordance with “our diplomatic principles, not because of China.”

“Our position remains unchanged that we will continue to promote unofficial economic and cultural relations and practical exchanges through them,” the official told reporters.

Seoul faces an increasingly thorny balance as the United States, its main ally, focuses on mobilizing allies and partners to counter what they call a coercive and aggressive China, the biggest partner economy of South Korea.

Deputy ministers could also discuss the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, just as Western countries join a US-led diplomatic boycott.

The Blue House has said it does not plan to participate in the boycott, but discussions have yet to take place with China on sending a delegation.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by)

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