SEOUL, July 2 -- Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to South Korea will become an "important milestone" in the development of the two countries' strategic cooperative partnership, Chinese Ambassador Qiu Guohong has said.
At the invitation of his South Korean counterpart, Park Geun-hye, Xi kicks off a two-day state visit to the country Thursday. The visit will be Xi's first to South Korea since he took office last year.
The visit will deepen the two countries' political communication and mutual trust, enrich the strategic connotation of bilateral ties, and lay a solid foundation for the long-term development of their relations, Qiu said in an interview with Chinese media Tuesday.
He said South Korea is not only an important close neighbor, but also a friendly cooperative partner of China, adding that the two countries share similar cultures, connected feelings and common interests and the history of their friendly exchanges goes back to ancient times.
Thanks to the rapid development of bilateral relations after they established diplomatic ties 22 years ago, China and South Korea have become each other's important strategic cooperative partner, he said.
Qiu noted that the two countries' relations have made strides in various fields, especially in the following four aspects.
Firstly, the ambassador said, the two countries have maintained frequent exchange of high-level visits and continuously deepened political mutual trust.
Since the establishment of their new governments, Xi, Park and other Chinese and South Korean leaders have had quite a few meetings and in-depth communication on multilateral and bilateral occasions. They have also formed sound working relationships and personal friendships.
The two sides issued a joint declaration on future relations last year, and set up and enriched high-level mechanisms on dialogue and cooperation in such areas as politics, foreign affairs, security, and people-to-people and cultural exchanges, with their strategic communication continuously deepened.
Secondly, China and South Korea have conducted close trade and economic cooperation, with their interests becoming more and more interconnected, Qiu said.
China has become the largest trade partner, export destination and import source of South Korea, while South Korea the largest import source and one of the most important investors for China, as two-way trade reached 274.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2013, a 55-fold increase compared with that at the beginning of their diplomatic ties.
The two sides are also working toward a comprehensive, balanced and high-level free trade agreement as soon as possible.
Thirdly, the ambassador said, the two countries have carried out active people-to-people and cultural exchanges and consolidated public support for bilateral ties.
Chinese and South Koreans made a record 8.22 million trips to each other's country last year. More than 60,000 Chinese students are studying in South Korea, which has also sent the same number of students to China.
In addition, there are 154 pairs of sister provinces/cities between the two countries.
Fourthly, China and South Korea have maintained smooth multilateral communication and coordination, Qiu said.
The two sides have common interests and similar stands on major international and regional issues such as the Korean Peninsula, regional cooperation, reform of the UN Security Council, and climate change.
Thanks to their close communication and sound coordination, they have not only safeguarded common interests, but also made active contribution to boosting peace and development in the region and the world at large.
China-South Korea relations have made strides and historic breakthroughs in a comparatively short period of time, mainly benefiting from their sound political ties, broad common interests, complementary economic structures, and solid public support, Qiu said.
The ambassador expressed his confidence in future relations between the two countries, saying Xi's visit will open a new chapter in bilateral ties and lift them to a new height.