S. Korean, Chinese leaders meet to strengthen relations

South Korean President Park Geun Hye (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, yesterday. Ms Park will be attending a parade in Beijing which marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World W
South Korean President Park Geun Hye (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, yesterday. Ms Park will be attending a parade in Beijing which marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Asia today.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Regional security, trade and nuclear talks with Pyongyang on summit agenda

China has called for the resumption of nuclear talks and a peaceful resolution in the Korean peninsula, after a recent spike in tension caused by a rare exchange of artillery fire between Pyongyang and Seoul.

The call by Chinese President Xi Jinping came as he held his sixth summit meeting with South Korean President Park Geun Hye yesterday, amid growing political ties between China and South Korea, and purported strain between China and North Korea.

Ms Park is in the Chinese capital today to attend a parade which commemorates the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Asia.

She is also seeking to strengthen trade between the two countries, which has slumped in the past year.

At their luncheon meeting yesterday, Mr Xi described the two countries as "good neighbours" and "an important force for boosting regional and global peace".

While he did not directly mention the recent skirmish between the two Koreas, he called for a resumption of multilateral nuclear talks with Pyongyang and said he opposed any move that could increase tensions.

The so-called six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme, which include the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan, have stalled since 2008.

"China has all along upheld the aim of a denuclearised Korean peninsula, the maintaining of the peninsula's peace and stability, and resolving issues through dialogue and consultation," Mr Xi said.

Ms Park said she appreciated China's "constructive role" in easing the recent situation, but added that tensions remain on the peninsula.

Analysts told The Straits Times that Ms Park's administration deliberated over attending the parade for a long time, over fears of upsetting the United States, which sees it as an event designed to show off China's growing military might. She accepted the invite only after China exerted pressure on North Korea to ease the recent tensions.

"We need China's support to solve the North Korean problem, while China needs South Korea's cooperation to maintain peace in North-east Asia," said Emeritus Professor Im Kay Soon from Hanyang University.

Mr Xi and Ms Park also agreed to seek a three-way summit with Japan late next month or in early November in a step towards easing tensions in the region, the presidential office in Seoul said in a statement on its website. The summit would take place in South Korea, it said.

WWII atrocities committed by Japan against China and Korea have been a constant source of diplomatic strain and Ms Park, Mr Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have never held such a meeting before.

Ms Park yesterday also met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, aiming to boost bilateral economic ties.

Mr Li pledged to deepen cooperation and strengthen economic integration between the two countries, which signed a bilateral free-trade agreement earlier this year after three years of negotiations.

But South Korean exports last month posted their sharpest fall in six years due to falling shipments to China, the country's largest export destination.

Last month, South Korean exports shrank 14.7 per cent from a year earlier to US$39.33 billion (S$55.6 billion). Exports have been in decline for eight months in a row.

Ms Park was accompanied in China by the largest-ever business delegation of 105 companies, mostly small and medium-sized enterprises.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2015, with the headline 'S. Korean, Chinese leaders meet to strengthen relations'. Print Edition | Subscribe