South Korea and China held their 13th working-level defense meeting on Tuesday to arrange bilateral consultations and exchange programs aimed at promoting military ties, Seoul's defense ministry said.
Lee Jeong-gyu, the South Korean defense ministry's international policy director, met with his Chinese counterpart Hu Changming to coordinate the vice defense ministerial dialogue and this year's exchange plans between the two armed forces, the ministry said.
The two sides agreed to have Chinese defense minister Chang Wanchuan visit South Korea this year to discuss security matters with South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, and to continue consultations to coordinate the schedule.
"It is very likely that North Korea may launch provocations while staging a fake peace offensive," a senior military official said on the condition of anonymity. "South Korea and China agreed to hold a bilateral defense summit at an early date to send a strong message to North Korea."
North Korea has repeatedly called on South Korea to cancel the planned military drills with the United States, which are scheduled from late February and April, suggesting that the two Koreas stop mutual slandering to improve inter-Korean ties.
Seoul and Washington said they will go ahead with the exercises as planned, while carefully gauging the real intention behind Pyongyang's peace gesture to see whether the communist neighbor is committed to keeping its word.
The planned drills come amid concerns that the North may stage provocations as it seeks to forge internal unity following last month's execution of its leader Kim Jong-un's once-powerful uncle, Jang Song-thaek. The execution was the biggest political upheaval in decades.
North Korea has a track record of carrying out provocations at a time of internal instability in an apparent attempt to divert people's attention and rally public support.
During the meeting, South Korea and China also agreed to maintain communication at all military levels and to strengthen exchanges and cooperation in non-traditional security sectors.
As part of such efforts, they also agreed to establish hotline between defense ministries of the two nations to handle emergency military issues.
"As working-level officials discussed establishment of hotline, a higher level dialogue will make a decision on more details of the matter," the official said.
The two sides also discussed the arrangement of the South Korean Air Force aerobatic team's participation in Zhuhai Air Show to be held in November, and a performance by the Korean military orchestra band in China.