World

China's Xi says willing to help end rift with South Korea

China's Xi says willing to help end rift with South Korea

A little over a week after President Moon spoke with President Xi over the phone, his special envoy, Lee Hae-chan met President Xi on Friday in person in Beijing.

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.

Lee was dispatched by South Korea's newly elected president, Moon Jae-in, to China in an attempt to keep communications open between the two countries "at a critical time".

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.

Relations between China and South Korea deteriorated quickly after July 2016, when former President Park Geun-hye agreed to deploy the missile defense system.




For his part, Lee said Moon asked him to express his "gratitude" to Xi for his message of congratulations after the election.

The United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea to guard against the North Korean threat, has called on China to do more to rein in its ally and neighbor. Beijing has suggested calling on North Korea to stop missile and nuclear tests in exchange for the US and South Korea suspending military exercises in the region. South Korean companies have claimed that Beijing took retaliatory measures against them, with the flow of tourists from China to South Korea dropping dramatically. South Korean businesses have faced boycotts, especially the retail group Lotte which provided the land on which the missile shield is being constructed.

Trump has to deal with the unexpected election of a new leader in South Korea, President Moon Jae-un, a respected left-of-centre politician who states he wants to ease the tense relations with North Korea, including the current alarm caused by North Korea's missile tests.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who criticized the latest test-firing, said Pyongyang's actions were "unacceptable", but he also appeared to hold out an olive branch to Kim.

Chinese-South Korean relations deteriorated after Seoul approved the positioning of the system.


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