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Korea, China to commence defense talks

The Chinese and Korean defense ministries will hold inaugural strategic defense dialogue in Seoul this week, hoping to thaw their relationship that has been chilled since two deadly North Korean provocations last year, said Chinese officials Sunday.

A top-level delegation led by Air Force Gen. Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the general staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, will arrive in Seoul for a four-day visit starting Wednesday.

Ma is expected to discuss joint interests with its South Korean counterpart Lee Yong-gul and possibly North Korea, a sensitive issue for both countries, as China is the North’s biggest ally.

“The two countries will discuss the regional security situation, including the North Korean issue,” said the Seoul defense ministry.

“They will also talk about improving their bilateral defense exchanges.”

“We expect these strategic talks will raise the bilateral defense relations to a level that befits the strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries,” the ministry added.

Relations went cold when the South Korean and U.S. military staged large-scale military exercises involving a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in a show of force against the North despite China’s opposition.

China has yet to call North Korea the instigator for the torpedoing of the corvette Cheonan and the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, which claimed 50 military and civilian lives.

Earlier in the week, Ma is expected to meet with Kimito Nakae, Japan’s administrative vice minister of defense, for their first vice-ministerial defense talks in over three years, discussing similar issues.

Ma is also scheduled to meet with Japan’s defense minister Toshimi Kitazawa, during his visit to Japan, prior to arriving here.

The talks are the result of Korea’s defense minister Kim Kwan-jin’s talks with his Chinese counterpart Gen. Liang Guanglie on July 15.

During the visit, China disclosed the existence of a J-10 fighter jet base to Kim, the first time for the country to reveal it to a foreign country, showing intent to strengthen bilateral military and defense ties.

Kim’s visit to China also marked the first since talks were last held in May 2009.

By Robert Lee (robert@heraldcorp.com)
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