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North Korea nuclear crisis

Xi Jinping says war must never be allowed on Korean peninsula as South’s president tries to mend relations on visit to China

Chinese leader welcomes Moon Jae-in to Beijing as two sides seek to resolve differences over Seoul’s deployment of anti-missile system

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 December, 2017, 10:27pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 December, 2017, 11:28pm

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that wars on the Korean peninsula are never acceptable, adding that China would continue to support dialogue between Seoul and Pyongyang.

Meeting his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in in Beijing on Thursday afternoon, Xi also warned that South Korea should “appropriately handle” its deployment of a US-backed anti-missile system, which Beijing saw as a strategic threat and triggered its worst diplomatic crisis with Seoul in recent times.

The meeting at the Great Hall of the People came on the second day of Moon’s four-day trip to China – his first since taking office in May.

“For reasons known to all, China-South Korea relations have experienced some setbacks,” Xi said before the meeting in an apparent reference to the Terminal High Area Altitude Defence (THAAD) system.

Can Moon Jae-in get relations with Beijing back on track after THAAD?

Xi said such setbacks provided “inspiration for the two countries on how to better explore future relations”, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

“I hope and believe that [Moon’s] visit will be an important opportunity to improve relations as we seek to find ways to carve a better path based on mutual respect and trust,” Xi said.

Moon acknowledged the “temporary difficulties” between the two countries, but said he wanted to build “the foundation for a new era”, without mentioning THAAD.

Moon, who advocates dialogue with the North, also called on Beijing to help to chart a peaceful solution to the North Korea nuclear crisis.

“I hope we will reaffirm our countries’ joint stance to peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear problem that threatens peace and security – not only in Northeast Asia but the entire world – and discuss specific ways to cooperate,” Moon was quoted by South Korean news agency Yonhap as saying.

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Xi said that Beijing would work with Seoul as the two countries shared “key and common interests” on the nuclear question.

“The goal of denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula is unshakeable and chaos and wars will never be allowed on the peninsula,” Xi said.

“We are willing to strengthen communication and coordination with the South Korean side … and China will be pushing forward reconciliation efforts for the two [Koreas] to talk and contact to improve their relations.”

Moon, who is accompanied by what South Korean media described as the largest-ever business delegation – made up of the executives of more than 260 companies – as well as popular entertainers, also hopes to revive economic ties with his country’s biggest trading partner.

China and South Korea are preparing for talks to extend a two-year old bilateral free-trade agreement to more services and investments, Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said.

Beijing imposed a series of punitive measures last year after Seoul agreed to deploy THAAD, although it never officially acknowledged that it was doing so.

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The measures included a ban on group tours to the South while South Korean pop stars, usually popular among young Chinese, were not allowed on Chinese TV shows.

After his summit with Xi, Moon joined a state dinner hosted by Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan, and top South Korean entertainers, including Song Hye-kyo, the star of hit drama Descendants of the Sun, also joined the dinner.

However, diplomatic observers said reconciliation efforts between Beijing and Seoul could be hampered by unresolved disputes over THAAD.

A potential further cause of contention emerged on Thursday morning when two South Korean journalists were reportedly beaten up and injured by Chinese security guards during a trade fair attended by Moon.

A South Korean official told Yonhap that Seoul had filed a protest with the Chinese government and demanded a formal apology, though a preliminary investigation suggested the guards may have been hired by the South Korean organisers of the event.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang voiced concern over what he said he hoped was “just a minor incident”.