Sunday, March 18, 2018 | ePaper
China willing to help end rift with South Korea: Xi
AP, Beijing :
South Korean special envoy Lee Hae-chan, (left), passes on a hand-written letter from South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said Friday he's willing to help ties with South Korea return to a "normal track" amid a rift over Seoul's deployment of a high-tech U.S. missile-defense system to guard against North Korean threats.
Xi's remarks came in a meeting with South Korean special envoy Lee Hae-chan, who was dispatched to Beijing by new President Moon Jae-in on a mission to reopen contacts and seek a way out of the current impasse that has hit South Korean businesses hard.
China "is committed to resolving any issues through dialogue and coordination, which is in the fundamental interests of both countries and the region," Xi was quoted as saying by China's official Xinhua News Agency.
Earlier in the day, Lee met with State Councilor Yang Jiechi, Xi's senior foreign policy adviser, and on Thursday with Foreign Minister Wang Yi. They were believed to have held talks on prospects for containing North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons activities as well as the economic fallout over the deployment in South Korea of the U.S. missile defense system called THAAD.
It wasn't clear if THAAD came up in Xi's talks with Lee, during which the Chinese leader sat at the head of the table in a manner usually reserved for meetings with lower-ranking Chinese officials.
However, Lee was quoted by Xinhua as saying that South Korea "understood China's major concerns and was ready to strengthen coordination with China to remove any obstacles to the development of bilateral ties."
Lee earlier said Moon had sent him to China to keep communications open "at a critical time." Seoul and Washington have argued that the missile system is aimed at North Korean aggression, while China sees it as a threat to its own security because its radar can peer deep into northeastern China. China is North Korea's biggest economic partner and source of diplomatic support and has come under heavy pressure to use its influence to rein in the North's missile and nuclear activities. China says its influence has been exaggerated and has called on South Korea and the U.S. to end large-scale wargames seen as threatening by North Korea in exchange for the North suspending its missile launches and nuclear tests.
Beijing has retaliated against Seoul over THAAD by suspending visits to South Korea by Chinese tour groups and trips to China by South Korean entertainers. South Korean businesses have faced boycotts, especially the retail group Lotte which provided the land on which the missile shield is being constructed.