World

South Korea, China seek peaceful solution to N. Korean nuclear issue

S. Korean President in Beijing after differences over deployment of Thaad anti-missile system

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae In have sought to patch up ties hit by Seoul's deployment of an anti-missile system that Beijing says hurts its security interests.

Mr Xi told Mr Moon his visit would improve bilateral relations that have suffered a setback while the South Korean leader called for a "new start" to ties at their summit in Beijing yesterday.

The North Korean nuclear issue was also top on the two leaders' minds, with both sides stressing the need to resolve the issue through peaceful means.

Mr Moon's first state visit to China after taking office in May comes at a time when bilateral ties have cooled considerably over South Korea's deployment of the American Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) anti-missile system against the North's nuclear threat.

The Chinese objected to this, saying the Thaad system compromised its security interests.

China banned group tours to South Korea and cracked down on South Korean companies operating in China, among other measures.

Acknowledging "temporary difficulties", Mr Moon told Mr Xi: "I would like to build a solid foundation for opening up a new era in the relationship between our two countries, based on trust and friendship between us two leaders."

Mr Xi said: "For reasons known to all, China-South Korea relations have experienced some setbacks.

"I hope and believe that your 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."

The two also oversaw the signing of several memoranda of understanding, including on starting negotiations to upgrade their bilateral free trade pact.

Yesterday, Mr Moon visited a trade fair, where two South Korean photojournalists were involved in a scuffle with Chinese security guards.

About a dozen South Korean journalists were following Mr Moon out of the fair, organised by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, when they were stopped by the guards.

One photojournalist was surrounded by 15 guards and knocked down.

When another intervened, he was also beaten up, according to media reports.

"Emergency medical treatment was provided at the scene, and (the South Korean) government has expressed regret to the Chinese government, and strongly requested a clear investigation and follow-up measures," the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quoted as saying by media.

This afternoon, Mr Moon will meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and parliamentary chief Zhang Dejiang.

In the morning, he will speak to Peking University students on cooperation between the two countries' young people to create a bright future together.

But in a sign that Thaad is not yet behind the two neighbours, Mr Xi reiterated China's stand on the issue, said CCTV News.

Seoul has said it would not deploy additional Thaad batteries, but it appears this is not enough for the Chinese.

Mr Xi told Mr Moon he hoped South Korea would "continue to deal with the issue appropriately". - ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHANG MAY CHOON IN SEOUL


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