South Korea and China have agreed to cooperate on stalled talks on North Korea’s nuclear programme and to prepare for a visit to Seoul by Chinese President Xi Jinping, following high-level talks.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in met China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, late on Thursday, and expressed his “gratitude” to Beijing for its “constructive role and cooperation” in the Korea peace process, according to Yonhap news agency.
“Our government will not stop efforts to put an end (formally) to war on the Korean Peninsula and achieve complete denuclearisation and permanent peace together with the international community, including China,” Moon was quoted as telling Wang during their meeting.
In response, Wang said that resolving the Korean Peninsula issue should be done through dialogue, according to Xinhua news agency.
He said achieving denuclearisation on the peninsula can be achieved in “a phased and synchronised” manner to prevent “war and chaos”.
Wang arrived in the South Korean capital late on Wednesday, after a two-day visit to Japan, as Asian governments prepare for a possible change in United States policy under the incoming Biden administration.
Both South Korea and Japan are US allies and host American military bases.
Earlier on Thursday, Wang also held talks with his South Korean counterpart, Kang Kyung-wha, during which they discussed the visit of Xi, which has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Both sides agreed to actively communicate so that the COVID-19 situation stabilises and conditions are created for President Xi’s visit,” the South Korean foreign ministry said in a statement after Wang’s meeting with Kang.
China and South Korea have traditionally been suspicious of each other but in recent years have found common ground in economic cooperation and a shared concern about North Korea’s rush to develop nuclear weapons.
Wang said his visit was to highlight the importance of efforts by the “strategic partners” to work to promote peace and stability.
“The COVID-19 crisis could not defeat the citizens of our two countries,” Wang, speaking through an interpreter, said as his meeting with Kang began.
“Bilateral ties are showing their strength and ever more vigour.”
Outgoing US President Donald Trump raised hopes for progress in pressing North Korea to give up its weapons programmes in exchange for the lifting of sanctions but talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have since stalled.
Kang also reportedly raised the issue of the incoming US administration in her talks with Wang, who expressed “hopes” for its North Korea policy, a South Korean official who declined to be identified told reporters.
Wang reiterated China’s opposition to a US missile defence system installed in South Korea in 2017, the official said.
South Korea and the US have said the system is designed to counter North Korean missile threats but China fears it undercuts its security interests.