China, South Korea presidents to meet as missile shield row eases
Two heads of state to hold talks on sidelines of Apec forum in Vietnam next week, news agency reports
China and South Korea’s presidents will hold talks next week after the two nations agreed to normalise relations amid a year-long stand-off over the deployment of a US anti-missile shield, according to a news agency report.
The meeting between Xi Jinping and Moon Jae-in will be held on the sidelines of an Apec forum to be held in Da Nang, Vietnam, next week, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
The meeting will be “the first step in implementing an agreement to quickly put exchanges between the two countries on the right track,” the report cited Nam Gwan-pyo, a director of South Korea’s presidential national security office, as saying.
The announcement came after a meeting between Nam and China’s assistant foreign minister Kong Xuanyou.
Relations between China and South Korea have soured over the deployment of the US-developed Terminal High Altitude Area Defence missile shield system.
South Korea says it is needed to counter the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. China says the system poses as a threat to its security as its tracking systems can pry into Chinese territory.
Statements released by the two countries’ foreign ministries following the meeting between Nam and Kong said they had agreed to put their ties back on track.
The two sides “attached great importance to the Korea-China relationship and decided to push for the further development of the strategic cooperative partnership”, South Korea’s foreign ministry said.
“Both shared the view that strengthening exchanges and cooperation between Korea and China serves their common interests and they agreed to expeditiously bring exchanges and cooperation in all areas back onto a normal track,” the statement added.
China’s foreign ministry said both nations had agreed to communicate about the missile shield system through military channels.
China has acknowledged South Korea’s fears over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, but has expressed concerns over the missile shield and military exercises conducted by South Korea, Japan and the United States.
The Chinese government’s criticism of the missile shield deployment led to a boycott by Chinese consumers of South Korean firms operating on the mainland.
Hopes for a thaw in ties emerged after Moon and Xi held talks on the sideline of G20 summit in Germany in July.
The two nations also agreed earlier this month to renew a US$56 billion currency swap agreement while Chinese airlines are planning to restore flight routes to South Korea, according to media reports.
The cooling of tensions between Beijing and Seoul comes ahead of US President Donald Trump’s first trip to Asia while in office, which will include visits to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Trump is expected to push for greater efforts in the region to rein in North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme and missile launches.
Zhang Liangui, a professor of international strategic research at the Central Party School, said Xi and Moon’s meeting was a sign the two nations’ ties were improving.
“It also reflects that Beijing and Seoul deeply understand their ties cannot deteriorate any further since the North Korean crisis continues to deepen and the worsening of Sino-South Korea relations has hurt China’s strategic security,” he said.
Lee Kyu-tae, an expert on geopolitics at South Korea’s Catholic Kwandong University, said the meeting reflected the willingness of the two nations to engage each other and possibly cooperate on dealing with North Korea.