Xi Jinping warns South Korea to handle missile shield row properly or risk worsening regional tensions
Comments come as North Korea fires missiles following talks between the two heads of state during G20 summit
President Xi Jinping warned his South Korean counterpart Park Geun-hye on Monday that regional tension would worsen if China’s opposition to the deployment of the US-developed anti-missile system was not handled properly.
Xi’s warning came as the leaders met for talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, eastern Zhejiang province. It was the first time the two presidents had met since bilateral ties were strained by Seoul’s plan to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile shield.
A couple of hours after their talks, South Korea said three missiles, launched from the western North Korean town of Hwangju, flew across the country before splashing down in waters off its east coast. The three missiles likely landed in the sea 200km to 250km west of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island, sources at Japan’s defence ministry said.
China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday it hoped relevant parties avoid taking any action that might escalate tensions.
In his remarks, Xi said China opposed the deployment of the system in South Korea. China has repeatedly stated that the missile shield poses a threat to its security.
“Mishandling the issue is not conducive to strategic stability in the region and could intensify disputes,” Xi was quoted as saying.
Xi told Park there were increasing factors creating instability on the Korean Peninsula and China and South Korea should “cherish the existing foundation for cooperation” to build up political trust.
Xi called for China and South Korea should put their ties back on the right track and build mutual trust. Both countries should respect each other’s core interests to ensure stable ties, he added.
The two countries as “close neighbours with broad common interests” should cherish their existing cooperative foundation and overcome difficulties and challenges, the state-run news agency Xinhua quoted Xi as saying.
He noted that in the 1930s a Korean interim government had stayed in Hangzhou for three years in the fight against Japanese aggression.
“China is willing to work with the Republic of Korea to better protect and advance their hard-won ties,” he said, while expressing hopes that the two countries will strive to “expand cooperative and positive elements and put a lid on negative ones.”
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Park said South Korea’s government values and has the firm will to develop relations with China, but she added that North Korea’s fourth nuclear test and missile launches pose a challenge to its ties with Beijing, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
“THAAD is a tool designed only to respond to North Korea’s nuclear and missile [threats], and there is no reason why THAAD should encroach upon the security interests of a third country and there is no need for that either,” she was quoted by Kim Kyou-hyun, senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs in Seoul, as saying during the summit.
Park was quoted as saying that North Korea’s provocations gravely damaged peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia.
Park said in an interview with Russia’s state-run news agency Rossiya Segodnya last week that if Pyongyang’s escalating military threats were eliminated the need for the missile shield would “naturally” dissipate.
Xi also told US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G20 summit to withdraw the missile shield plan, Xinhua reported.
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