China, South Korea agree to further ease pandemic-related travel restrictions

China and South Korea have agreed to further ease pandemic-related travel restrictions, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Thursday after meeting with his South Korean counterpart in Seoul.

Wang praised the “robustness” and “vitality” of China’s relations with South Korea, saying his trip to the country, despite COVID-19, shows how much Beijing values the bilateral partnership.

Kang Kyung-wha said Wang’s visit shows close cooperation between the foreign ministries of the two countries.

“Ahead of the 30th anniversary in 2022 of the establishment of bilateral ties, I hope for an exchange of opinions on further fleshing out the strategic partnership between the two countries,” Kang said.

Wang is visiting the neighboring country as South Korea is battling its third wave of infections.

Citing the country’s Disease Control and Prevention Agency, Yonhap reported that the daily number of coronavirus cases in South Korea surpassed 500 for the first time in over eight months on Thursday. The country now has a total caseload of 32,318.

At the meeting, the two sides agreed to strengthen cooperation in prevention and control of the virus and further widen a “fast track” for travels. They also discussed creating a mechanism to tackle the virus in East Asia.

The foreign ministers affirmed to further promote the bilateral strategic partnership and deepen cooperation as well as increase mutual trust.

They also agreed to start dialogues regarding diplomatic relations, national security and maritime issues in order to further build trust and promote maritime cooperation.

On regional cooperation, both sides agreed to make efforts for the early enforcement of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and accelerate negotiations on the China-Japan-South Korea free trade area.

Wang and Kang agreed to deepen bilateral cooperation on the third-party market and new industries, and said they hoped to push forward the second-phase free-trade agreement talks between the countries.

They also said they are committed to maintaining the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula, and agreed to solve regional denuclearization through political dialogue.

Wang told his South Korean counterpart that China firmly supports the improvement of ties between Pyongyang and Seoul.