The chief nuclear envoys of South Korea and China on Tuesday discussed ways to cooperate in managing the situation on the Korean Peninsula and committed to continue “close strategic communication” to resolve North Korean issues.
Noh Kyu-duk, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, held his first face-to-face talks with his Chinese counterpart, Liu Xiaoming, in the morning at the Foreign Ministry building in Seoul.
Liu, special representative of the Chinese government on Korean Peninsula affairs, is on his first trip to Seoul since his appointment in April 2021.
“Both sides shared the assessment of the recent grave circumstances on the Korean Peninsula and discussed ways to cooperate in managing the situation on the Korean Peninsula in a stable manner,” South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a Korean-language statement.
The closed-door bilateral meeting came at a critical juncture when North Korea has ratcheted up tension on the Korean Peninsula as the South Korean government changes hands.
Recent commercial satellite images also indicate that Pyongyang has continued to restore access to a yet unused tunnel at the Punggye-ri testing site in a potential attempt to resume nuclear testing.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Noh and Liu “agreed to continue close strategic communication between South Korea and China on the issues of the Korean Peninsula.”
During the meeting, Noh expressed concerns over North Korea’s recent moves, including a series of missile launches and the restoration of the Punggye-ri nuclear testing test.
“(Noh) asked China to play a constructive role so that North Korea refrains from acts of further aggravating the situation and returns to dialogue,” according to South Korea’s Foreign Ministry. It did not share details such as whether South Korea had asked for China’s cooperation at the UN Security Council.
In return, the Chinese nuclear envoy expressed a “need for close cooperation among concerned countries to stabilize the situation on the Korean Peninsula and in the region.”
Liu also “reaffirmed China’s position that it will play a constructive role for a peaceful resolution to the issues of the Korean Peninsula,” while recognizing the South Korean government’s efforts to that end.
Following the meeting, the Chinese envoy told reporters that he sees a “new change” in the security situation on the peninsula and emphasized the importance of making joint efforts between the two countries to seek political solutions to the North Korean nuclear issue.
China has underscored political solutions despite North Korea’s recent spate of advanced weapons tests, including the full-scale launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile in March, which is the first of its kind since November 2017.
The country also has called the US-led initiative to reinforce UN economic sanctions on North Korea as an act of escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula.
In the afternoon, Liu met South Korean Unification Minister Lee In-young and exchanged views on their understanding of the recent situation on the peninsula and discussed the efforts of both countries, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said in a separate statement.
Lee, like Noh, requested China to “play a constructive role in (pursuing) North Korea to stop its act of escalating tension and come out on to the path to a diplomatic solution for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”
In response, Liu underscored that “China has worked toward denuclearization as well as peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and political solutions to the Korean Peninsula issues.”
The Chinese envoy also pointed to the significance of this year in light of the transition of power in South Korea and the situation on the Korean Peninsula. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between South Korea and China, he said.
Liu also held talks with South Korean Vice Unification Minister Choi Young-joon and “committed to continuing bilateral communication and cooperation” over North Korean issues.
The Chinese envoy is also set to have a meeting with South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun on Wednesday. Liu is also reportedly scheduled to meet Kim Tae-hyo, who has been tapped by President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol to be his first deputy security adviser.
The Chinese envoy’s visit to South Korea comes right after trips to France, Russia, the US, and the UK, the UN Security Council’s four other permanent members outside of China, as well as Germany and Switzerland, in March and April.
UN Security Council members have failed to reach a consensus on how to respond to a series of advanced weapons tests by North Korea including the ICBM launch amid a continuing tug of war.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Choi Young-sam on Tuesday said the South Korean government has been aware that Liu had “meaningful communication on the issues of the Korean Peninsula with the international community, including the US” before his trip to Seoul.
By Ji Da-gyum (firstname.lastname@example.org