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Seoul, Beijing agree to deepen joint high-level security talks

BEIJING (Yonhap News) ― Amid worries over instability in North Korea following the purge of leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle, China said Tuesday it agreed to deepen “strategic cooperation” with South Korea in the first high-level security talks between the two countries.

Senior diplomats and defense officials of South Korea and China held their first “two-plus-two” talks in Beijing on Monday. The Dec. 12 execution of Kim’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, topped the agenda, a Seoul diplomat said earlier.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters that the two sides “agreed to further enhance strategic communication and cooperation in various fields and jointly safeguard regional peace, stability and development.”

South Korea and China had “an in-depth exchange of issues on bilateral relations as well as international and regional issues of common interest,” he said.

The Monday talks were led by Park Joon-yong, director of Northeast Asian affairs at South Korea’s foreign ministry, and his Chinese counterpart Luo Zhaohui.

On Monday, a Seoul diplomat with knowledge of the talks said, “The two sides shared views on the recent developments in North Korea since the execution of Jang Song-thaek and the Chinese side said it attaches importance to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”

Hua also said that Beijing wants to upgrade the level of the security talks with South Korea.

“We attach great importance to developing relationship with the ROK (South Korea) and we stand ready to work together with the ROK to update the China-ROK Security Dialogue,” Hua said, adding such security dialogue would help “make a greater contribution to the peace and stability of Northeast Asia.”

South Korea and the U.S. have been closely watching North Korea amid fears that Pyongyang could carry out provocations as part of its strategy to forge internal unity following Jang’s execution.

The dramatic downfall of Jang, known as a supporter of Chinese-style economic reforms, is also expected to put a brake on diplomatic efforts to resume long-stalled talks aimed at ultimately getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.