Xi meets S.Korean envoy Lee

By Liu Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/19 21:18:39

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with the special envoy of South Korea's newly elected President Moon Jae-in on Friday, calling for the bilateral ties to return to normal track. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with the special envoy of South Korea's newly elected President Moon Jae-in on Friday, calling for the bilateral ties to return to normal track.

Chinese experts said China should keep pressure on South Korea to consider its concerns on the deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system despite the increasing possibilities of improvement in Sino-South Korean ties under the Moon administration.

China attaches great importance to relations with South Korea, and would like to work with the country to ensure the continuation of all the hard-won bilateral achievements, Xi said during a meeting with Lee Hae-chan, who is visiting China from Thursday to Saturday as Moon's special envoy, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Xi called on both sides to consolidate the mutual political trust and properly handle divergence on the basis of mutual understanding and mutual respect, Xinhua reported.

Lee said South Korea understood China's major concerns and was ready to strengthen coordination with China to remove any obstacles to the development of bilateral ties. And he presented Xi with a hand-written letter from Moon.

Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi also met with Lee Friday and urged South Korea to respect China's major concerns and properly handle the issue of the deployment of THAAD, Xinhua reported.

Lee told Yang that South Korea understands China's concerns and is willing to make efforts to properly solve relevant issues, Xinhua reported.

Normalization process

"The THAAD deployment remains the biggest obstacle issue in the Sino-South Korean ties. And the possibilities to bring the bilateral ties back to normal are increasing, in view of the signal sent from the Friday meeting and Moon's anti-THAAD stance during the election campaign," Lü Chao, an expert on Korean studies at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Friday.

During the presidential election, Moon's spokesman Park Kwang-on said in a statement that the deployment of THAAD was "very inappropriate" as it strips the next government of the right to make the policy decision on the controversial missile defense system, Reuters reported in April.

"A better relationship between China and South Korea would benefit both sides since the two neighbors share many interests," Lü said.

The Friday meeting helped push up shares of several South Korean companies that rely on the spending of Chinese tourists, whose visits have suffered a sharp decrease amid the THAAD dispute. And shares in Lotte Shopping reversed earlier losses to rise 1.5 percent, Reuters reported.

However, Lü said that China should not be too optimistic on Moon's government to stop the deployment of THAAD and should keep pressure on the South Korea side.

"Moon proposed to seek a parliamentary review of the THAAD deployment, which could be tricky since the former president Park Geun-hye's Liberty Korea Party and conservatives may wield their influence and publicize their support to THAAD among the people," Lü said.

Lü also noted that the US Forces Korea, which is responsible for deploying THAAD, also play an important role in pushing the deployment.

US Department of Defense spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told a press conference on Monday that the US Forces Korea had shippedd key components of THAAD late last month into South Korea and the US will discuss with the new South Korean administration the "additional delivery of THAAD components and THAAD negotiations," South Korean KBS reported.

North Korean provocations

Jin Qiangyi, director of the Asia Research Center, China's Yanbian University in Northeast China's Jilin Province, share Lü's not so optimistic projection on THAAD and said that the tensions aroused by THAAD and the strained situation in the Northeast Asia are rooted in the North Korea nuclear issue.

Jin told the Global Times that North Korea's possible provocations in the future may push South Korea to support THAAD, which will affect Sino-South Korea ties further.

During the meeting with Lee, President Xi said that China adheres to realizing denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, ensuring regional peace and stability, and is committed to resolving any issues through dialogue and coordination, which is in the fundamental interests of both countries and the region, according to Xinhua.

Lee said that South Korea is willing to work with China to realize the denuclearization of the peninsula, and safeguard peace, stability and security in Northeast Asia, Xinhua reported.

Before leaving Seoul for Beijing, Lee said Moon could meet Xi as early as July at a Group of 20 summit in Germany, while a separate meeting could also be possible in August, Reuters reported.

"China has always insisted that the US and South Korea should end the military threat to North Korea and the North should give up nuclear tests, which would lay the foundation for all parties to have negotiations," Jin said.

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