by Wu Xia
BEIJING, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- South Korea on Monday swears in its first female president, Park Geun-hye, who has pledged prosperity and happiness for the people of Asia's fourth largest economy.
China, its neighbor and top trading partner, welcomes South Korea to a new era in bilateral relations, one that features trust and works in the mutual interests of both countries.
Beijing's relations with Seoul have progressed smoothly and swiftly. In 2008, bilateral ties were upgraded to strategic cooperative partnership level, less than two decades since the two countries forged diplomatic relations in 1992.
Trade has flourished, increasing almost 40-fold in the past 20 years. China is also a major destination of South Korean investment and a primary source of foreign tourists.
To further boost trade, China, South Korea and Japan agreed formally in November to launch negotiations for a free trade area, tapping the potential of cooperation among Asia's three economic giants.
China also has a lot to offer to Park's blueprint for another economic "miracle" for her country. China has a huge market for South Korea's cars and telephones, and would be an important partner in nurturing a "creative economy" in South Korea.
A fluent Chinese speaker who holds an honorary doctoral degree from a Taiwan university, Park has demonstrated extraordinary potential to surpass her predecessors in forging stronger China-South Korea ties. Her cultural ties with China and a more moderate stance on its northern neighbor, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), has rekindled hopes for more solidarity in Northeast Asia.
Northeast Asia has probably the most dynamic economic growth in the world, but is also one of the world's most unstable regions. Stability is of primary importance to Northeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific, and dialogue is the chief means to achieve stability.
The DPRK's third nuclear test on Feb. 12 has drawn almost universal condemnation. However, what is more important than condemnation is to negotiate a solution to break the stalemate.
It is deeply hoped Park, who reiterated in her inauguration speech a commitment to building trust with Pyongyang, will lead engagement with the North.
Well begun is half done. Park is widely expected to become a successful "captain," as she called herself in the speech, in steering South Korea through the regional economic and politics waves.