|President Park Geun-hye meets Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali, Indonesia, Monday. (Yonhap News)|
BALI, Indonesia ― President Park Geun-hye requested Monday that Chinese President Xi Jinping persuade North Korea to renounce its nuclear program and focus on its economy amid signs of the reclusive state reactivating its nuclear facilities.
During their talks on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit here, Xi reiterated that Beijing opposes Pyongyang’s possession of nuclear arms and additional atomic tests, a senior Seoul official said, declining to be named.
Xi also said China would “exhaustively” abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions entailing sanctions against the North for its past nuclear and missile tests, the official told reporters.
“When many North Koreans are suffering from malnutrition at the moment, I believe Pyongyang should not focus all of its resources on nuclear development,” she said during the 45-minute-long talks at the Ayodya Resort Bali hotel.
“I ask China to exert efforts to persuade North Korea to focus on its economic development. For the North to make the right choice, I believe close cooperation between Seoul and Beijing is of great importance.”
The meeting came as evidence has surfaced that Pyongyang restarted its nuclear reactor in the Yongbyon complex to extract plutonium for nuclear bombs.
Recent satellite photos showed hot waste water being discharged from a recently installed drainpipe, which is part of a new cooling system at the nuclear complex. These moves came as Pyongyang made overtures for fresh multilateral negotiations over its nuclear program.
To stop the “vicious cycle” of the nuclear conundrum on the peninsula, Xi stressed the need to restart the six-party talks that involve the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia.
Park, in response, said that Pyongyang’s genuine willingness to denuclearize is required for another fresh round of negotiations, and that Seoul has been pursuing Pyongyang’s “safe, verifiable and swift” denuclearization.
During the meeting, Park also expressed gratitude to Beijing for delivering to the North her wish to establish a peace park inside the Demilitarized Zone, a 4-kilometer-wide buffer zone separating the two Koreas.
Xi said the park would contribute to enhancing regional peace and stability, while pledging support for its construction.
The two leaders also recognized the first round of talks over their bilateral free trade agreement ended successfully, agreeing to closely work together for the next rounds of the negotiations to proceed quickly.
Noting that Xi and Park met three times since June, including their brief encounter last month during the Group of 20 summit in Russia, the Chinese leader positively evaluated the growing trust between the two countries.
To further deepen trust, they agreed to hold a vice minister-level strategic meeting within this year and push for other forms of dialogue including one among defense and diplomatic officials from the two countries.
“We have built regular dialogue channels in almost all areas of diplomacy, politics, defense, economy and trade, and with these efforts, political trust between the two countries has deepened,” said Xi.
Since her inauguration last February, Park has focused on improving ties with China ― a crucial partner in trade and tourism, and has influence over the unpredictable regime in Pyongyang.
Experts say the relations between Seoul and Beijing have been undermined due to the previous Lee Myung-bak government’s focus on the relationship with the U.S.
Later in the day, Park held separate bilateral talks with leaders of Canada, Mexico and Peru. Park and her counterparts discussed bilateral cooperation on the economy, security and other regional and global issues.
By Song Sang-ho
Korea Herald correspondent