The last quarter of 2009 raised hopes for developments in China's relations with both Koreas.
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping received head-of-state treatment during his mid-December
visit to South Korea. In Seoul, Xi presented a series of proposals to further the China-ROK
strategic cooperative partnership, including pressing for a free trade agreement. President Lee
Myung-bak and Premier Wen Jiabao held bilateral talks on Oct. 10 in Beijing on the sidelines of
the China-ROK-Japan trilateral summit, which Lee used to promote his "grand bargain" on
North Korean denuclearization.
There were also several exchanges between China and the DPRK. In early October, Premier
Wen led a large delegation to Pyongyang and proposed a comprehensive set of deals with North
Korea. As the first Chinese premier to visit Pyongyang in 18 years, Wen was warmly hosted by
Kim Jong-il. Following Wen's visit, the director of the United Front Department of the Workers'
Party of Korea (WPK) and Pyongyang's official in charge of inter-Korean relations, Kim Yanggon,
made a five-day trip to China. President Hu Jintao reportedly extended a formal invitation
to Kim Jong-il to visit China "at a convenient time" at his meeting with Choe Thae-bok,
secretary of the WPK Central Committee and one of Kim's closest aides, who led a WPK
delegation to Beijing in late October.