S. Korea, China seek bilateral summit in mid-December

By Jung Min-kyung
  • Published : Nov 23, 2017 - 17:42
  • Updated : Nov 23, 2017 - 17:42
With an expected summit between the leaders of South Korea and China next month, attention is being paid to whether the two countries will be able to mend strained ties caused by Seoul’s deployment of an advanced US missile defense system and Beijing’s economic retaliation. 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. (Yonhap)

Seoul’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi agreed to work together to organize President Moon Jae-in’s state visit to Beijing in mid-December, the Foreign Ministry in Seoul said Thursday.

“Both nations shared the view that President Moon’s visit to China will be an important event to strengthen and develop bilateral ties,” the ministry said in a statement.

Experts here are taking note of the meaning behind Moon’s upcoming state visit to Beijing as South Korea’s diplomatic protocol usually limits state visits to only one foreign leader per presidential five-year term.

“The gesture is a call for re-establishment of bilateral relationship,” Lee Tai-hwan, the director of the China studies center at the Sejong Institute said.

“Now they share a common interest regarding North Korean issues and regional security, so the upcoming bilateral summit could focus on drawing a new angle of cooperation and bolstering communication channels between the two nations,” he said.

The announcement comes at a sensitive time as Seoul and Beijing have been seeking to mend ties damaged by the installation of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. Seoul’s decision had irked Beijing on concerns that the system’s powerful radar could threaten China’s security by spying on its territory.

China retaliated by boycotting South Korean pop culture, cosmetics, and tourism for more than a year, although the communist nation has never directly admitted to such actions.

The meeting between the top diplomats also follows an agreement signed by both countries on Oct. 31, which acknowledged the importance of cooperation between the two countries and conveyed the wish to bury the hatchet concerning THAAD.

“The two sides shared the view that they will faithfully implement the agreement and make efforts to develop their ties into practical, strategic cooperative partnership on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations,” Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said.

The agreement also strongly urged South Korea not to accept further THAAD deployments while refraining from seeking trilateral US-ROK-Japan defense cooperation as a military alliance and joining the US-led regional missile defense network -- the so-called “three nos” here.

“China’s position on the THAAD issue is clear, consistent and has not changed,” Beijing’s Foreign Ministry recently said at a regular briefing.

Experts acknowledged the gap between Seoul and Beijing’s perspective on the policy of “three nos.”

“On the agreement concerning the deployment of THAAD along with other military initiatives and alliances, Beijing seems to view it as a ‘promise’ from Seoul whereas Seoul sees it as more of an ‘understanding’ between the two,” Yang Un-chul, vice president of South Korea’s Sejong Institute said.

On the North Korean nuclear issue, Kang and Wang highlighted close cooperation in forging a peaceful path toward bringing about the rogue regime’s denuclearization.

“They agreed to employ all available diplomatic means to make the absence of North Korea’s provocations continue. They also decided to closely cooperate to make the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics slated for next year a ‘Peace Olympics,’” Seoul’s statement said.

Pyongyang’s ties with Beijing have become largely strained over the North’s series of relentless nuclear and missile provocations. US President Donald Trump has been urging China to do more to rein in North Korea while designating the rogue regime as a state sponsor of terrorism.

On Monday, the US re-listed the North as a nation that sponsors terror, along with Syria, Iran and Sudan, and warned that it would raise the pressure to the “highest level” on the “murderous regime.”

In response, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry called Washington’s decision a “serious provocation” and threatened to bolster its deterrent force against the US’ hostile policy, its spokesperson said via its state mouthpiece Korea Central News Agency on Wednesday.

“The US will be held entirely accountable for all the consequences to be entailed by its impudent provocation (North Korea),” the North Korean ministry spokesman said.

By Jung Min-kyung (