South Korea's Park thanks China for easing tension with North

South Korean President Park Geun Hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping before their talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Sept 2, 2015.
South Korean President Park Geun Hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping before their talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Sept 2, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING (REUTERS) - South Korean President Park Geun Hye on Wednesday thanked China, during a summit meeting with President Xi Jinping, for help in defusing recent tension with North Korea that had pushed the neighbours to the brink of an armed conflict.

The rivals averted a full-on military confrontation by reaching an agreement last week to improve ties following a rare exchange of artillery fire over their heavily fortified border.

"I appreciate China for playing a constructive role in easing the recent tense situation on the Korean peninsula by closely communicating with us," Park said at the meeting, according to a pool report provided by her office.

"I hope to share candid opinions with President Xi about the Korean peninsula's political situation today as tensions continue to remain on the peninsula."

Park began a three-day trip to China to attend its commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two in Asia, and is scheduled to attend its massive military parade on Thursday.

Park's sixth summit meeting with Xi highlighted the rapidly growing ties between the Asian neighbours, even as Beijing has grown increasingly frustrated with North Korea.

China, Pyongyang's sole major ally, backed North Korea in the 1950-53 Korean War, with late leader Mao Zedong's eldest son dying in the conflict with the South.

China, the world's largest exporter, is now South Korea's biggest trading partner. South Korea is one of the few developed countries that runs a surplus with China.

In his opening remarks at the meeting with Park, however, Chinese President Xi Jinping did not directly address the recent tension but highlighted the growing ties between the South and China particularly in trade and financial cooperation.

"China and the Republic of Korea are good friends and strong promoters of regional and world peace. Looking at history, our two peoples' struggle has been very similar in our quest to liberate our people," Xi said.

North Korea's top defence body urged the South to be"discreet in words and deeds" over the pact to end the military standoff, accusing Seoul of claiming victory.

Choe Ryong Hae, secretary of the Central Committee of North Korea's Workers' Party, will also attend China's military parade, but it is unclear whether Choe will meet the South Korean leader there.

Choe is close to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.