China willing to mend relations with S. Korea
Strained China-South Korea relations improving since President Moon's election
BEIJING: China wants to put ties with South Korea back on a "normal track", President Xi Jinping said yesterday, but Beijing also urged Seoul to respect its concerns and resolve tensions over the deployment of a US anti-missile system that it opposes.
Relations between Beijing and Seoul, strained by disagreement over South Korea's hosting of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) system, have taken on a more conciliatory tone with the election earlier this month of President Moon Jae In.
Mr Xi told Mr Moon's representative, Mr Lee Hae Chan, yesterday that his visit showed the importance the new South Korean leader attached to relations with Beijing.
"China, too, pays great attention to the bilateral ties," Mr Xi told reporters in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
"We're willing to work with South Korea to preserve the hard-won results, properly handle disputes, put China-South Korea relations back on to a normal track and benefit both peoples on the basis of mutual understanding and mutual respect," he said.
Mr Lee gave Mr Xi a hand-written letter from Mr Moon, who won the election earlier this month, replacing Ms Park Geun Hye after she was ousted in a corruption scandal.
"President Moon said he hopes I'd also pass on his gratitude to you for your message of congratulation and the telephone call after he was elected," Mr Lee said, before reporters were asked to leave the room.
According to the official Xinhua news agency, Mr Xi told Mr Lee: "China is willing to strengthen communication with the new South Korean government... (and) continue to push for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula."
In a separate meeting with Mr Lee yesterday, China's top diplomat, Mr Yang Jiechi, said China "hopes that South Korea can respect China's major concerns (and) appropriately resolve the Thaad issue," Xinhua reported.
China has been infuriated by the US deployment of the Thaad system in South Korea, saying it was a threat to its security and would do nothing to ease tensions with Pyongyang.
The United States and South Korea have said the deployment is aimed purely at defending against any threat from North Korea, which experts have believed for months is preparing for its sixth nuclear test in defiance of United Nations sanctions.
South Korea has complained that some of its companies doing business in China have faced discrimination in retaliation for the Thaad deployment. - REUTERS