China and South Korea look to Winter Olympics to herald ‘springtime’ thaw in relations
Both sides express hope they can rebuild ties in wake of President Moon Jae-in’s visit
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has said he looks forward to the warmth of “springtime” in relations with South Korea.
He was speaking on Friday during the visit to China of President Moon Jae-in, which followed a year of strained relations after Seoul deployed the American Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system.
Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman for the South Korean presidential office, indicated that the country was expecting to resume a number of joint projects with China as ties between the two countries improved.
He quoted Li as saying: “We are aware that some Korean companies are struggling but the investment environment has not worsened. If China-South Korea relations improve, South Korean companies will have many benefits.”
Yoon said many Chinese were expected to visit the country during the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next year.
South Korea has invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend the February Games, hoping they will serve as a turning point for peace on the Korean peninsula.
China fears THAAD’s powerful radar could look deep into its territory, threatening its own security, and says its deployment will do nothing to help ease tension with the North.
China and South Korea agreed in October to normalise exchanges and move past the dispute, which froze trade and business links.
Li alluded to the troubled ties at a press conference with Moon saying both sides looked forward to the warmth of spring.
“We should say, springtime is expected,” Li added. “We also all want China and South Korea’s relations to move forward in a stable and healthy manner.”
Relations were in a “crucial period” where the spat over THAAD might end, China’s official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary, adding that moving on from the low point depended on whether South Korea “keeps its word and acts resolutely”.
By freezing political relations and thwarting trade cooperation, THAAD had posed “the greatest threat to diplomatic relations in 25 years”, it said.