South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to visit China

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Image caption,
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak (left) will meet Chinese President Hu Jintao (right) next week.

South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak is to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao next week during a state visit.

The leaders will discuss stability on the Korean peninsula and their "bilateral strategic partnership", said a statement from Mr Lee's office.

This is the first major meeting between the two leaders since the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Meanwhile, US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell has visited Beijing to discuss North Korea.

Following talks with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai and other senior officials, he urged all parties to "refrain from provocation".

He said Washington and Beijing would maintain "very close contact" concerning developments in North Korea.

"I indicated that we would be closely monitoring the situation there and that we urged all parties to cautiously deal with the situation and to refrain from any provocations," he said.

Mr Campbell was flying on to Seoul following talks in Beijing.

'Beijing's rush'

Lee Myung-bak will arrive in Beijing on Monday for the three-day visit, his second to China.

It is hoped that this visit will deepen ties between the two countries, as they mark the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations, said Mr Lee's office.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
US diplomat Kurt Campbell was flying on to Seoul after his talks in Beijing

His first state visit to China was in 2008. He is also scheduled to meet Premier Wen Jiabao and National People's Congress chairman Wu Bangguo on this trip.

China, North Korea's main ally and key trade partner, was quick to endorse Kim Jong-un's leadership after his father's death on 17 December.

China is also the chair of the stalled six-party talks aimed at persuading North Korea to end its nuclear ambitions.

Observers say Seoul wants closer co-ordination with Beijing on the issue of North Korea.

In the immediate aftermath of Kim Jong-il's death, South Korean media was critical of what it perceived as Beijing's rush to consolidate ties with Pyongyang at what it said was the expense of communication with Seoul.

Ties were also hit last month after a South Korean coastguard was stabbed to death during a confrontation with a Chinese fishing crew.