North Korea remains open to diplomatic efforts to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons, according to remarks reportedly made by Chinese President Xi Jinping to South Korean President Moon Jae-in over the phone on January 26.

The 40-minute conversation was covered by the Yonhap news service and the Korea Times. The two leaders had not spoken to each other on the phone since May 2020, the Korea Times said, adding that the South Korean leader had yet to speak to President Joe Biden.

Yonhap quoted President Xi as referring to a recent North Korean Workers' Party statement to indicate that the country was still open to efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

The news service also quoted the Chinese leader as saying the situation in North Korea now appeared "stable in general." The Korea Times said Xi emphasized South Korea's role in solving the political problems of the peninsula.

Hopes for a Visit to Seoul

The Chinese leader expressed his desire to visit Seoul soon, Yonhap said. The Korean government had hoped that he would visit the South Korean capital last year, but this had not been possible due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Korea Times said.

The newspaper recalled that the South Korean president had visited China in December 2017 and December 2019. Yonhap pointed out that President of China had remembered to send the South Korean leader a letter of birthday greetings on January 24 and a response from Seoul had been sent to Beijing.

2022 to be a Year of Cultural Exchange

During their phone call, the two leaders agreed to declare 2022 a cultural exchange year between the two countries, Yonhap said. The presidents of China and South Korea also noted that their countries had worked closely together during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and they agreed to deepen this cooperation, Yonhap reported.

Thirty years of China-South Korea diplomacy

The Chinese and South Korean leaders recalled that next year would mark the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the Korea Times and Yonhap noted. South Korean presidential spokesperson Kang Min-Seok was quoted by the Korea Times as saying that China and South Korea had agreed to have a Korea-China Relations Future Development Committee create a development "blueprint" for the next 30 years.

A strategic partnership

The Korea Times recalled that earlier this month, the South Korean President said China was "our largest trading partner" and a "major partner in promoting peace." The newspaper said that developing a "strategic partnership" with China was not stopping South Korea from "prioritizing" its alliance with the United States.