Ties between China and South Korea were officially restored on November 11 when the presidents of both countries met. The summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, represented a confirmation by the leaders of the two nations that they are moving to thaw ties.
Relations between the two countries have been frozen since South Korea and the US began deliberating the deployment of the THAAD missile defence system in February 2016.
As reported by The Hankyoreh online, this was Moon and Xi’s second summit, following a previous meeting this past July in Berlin where they were attending the G20 summit.
During a press briefing after the summit, Blue House spokesperson Park Soo-hyun indirectly referred to the THAAD conflict by saying that “Moon and Xi also candidly shared their opinions about differences of opinion between the two countries.”
“The two leaders reviewed the statement released on October 31 detailing a plan to improve bilateral relations and agreed to use this as the basis for quickly normalising exchange and cooperation in all areas,” said Senior Secretary to the President for Public Relations Yoon Young-chan during a press briefing after the meeting. Xi reportedly described this as a “new departure and a good beginning.”
“South Korea and China are both natural partners and close neighbours who cannot move away from each other,” Xi was quoted as saying by China’s foreign ministry. “I value relations with South Korea, and I want to work toward the healthy and stable development of our bilateral relations with South Korea.”
The two leaders discussed the following issues: arranging a visit to China by Moon in December and a return visit by Xi, carrying out dialogue on the North Korean nuclear issue and finding a peaceful solution, and expanding exchange and strengthening strategic dialogue among officials of all ranks.
China reported that Xi had confirmed his three principles of denuclearization, peace and stability, and a solution based on dialogue and compromise. He also expressed his support for “relaxing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, South Korea resuming dialogue and contact with the North, and working toward reconciliation and cooperation.”
As regards the North Korean nuclear issue, the two leaders are likely to need a thorough exchange of ideas about concrete solutions and a roadmap for getting there. That conversation will need to cover China’s proposal of the “dual freeze” of North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities and South Korea and the US’s joint military exercises and the “simultaneous pursuit” of denuclearisation and a peace treaty and South Korea’s idea of facilitating negotiations by putting pressure on North Korea.