Chinese, S. Korean officials meet in attempt to repair ties

President Xi Jinping said China was open to efforts by South Korea's new president to improve relations strained over his predecessor's response to North Korea. China's President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with South Korea's special envoy Lee Hae-chan (unseen) at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, Wednesday, May 19, 2017.

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 neighbour.

China has been infuriated by the U.S. deployment of an advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) anti-missile system in South Korea, saying it was a threat to its security and would do nothing to ease tensions with Pyongyang.

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".

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.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who officially assumed office on May 10, has repeatedly criticized the previous government under impeached leader Park Geun-hye for agreeing to host the THAAD system without seeking parliamentary approval.

The installation of the Thaad has resulted in an unofficial boycott of South Korean companies operating in China, including the supermarket chain Lotte, which had provided land in South Korea for the deployment.

Since Moon Jae-in took office on May 10, signs have emerged that Beijing and Seoul are seeking to reconcile their differences and fix damaged relations caused by the THAAD dispute.

To his credit, President Moon went on to say that certain conditions must be met in order for the two sides to be able to sit down with each other for talks - namely the discontinuation of North Korea's nuclear program.

Shortly after the election last week, Xi called the new South Korean leader to congratulate him on his victory.

The long-disputed THAAD deployment was constantly opposed by China, which has urged a peaceful solution to the Korean crisis.

During the talks, Abe also referred to a protest lodged Wednesday by Tokyo with Seoul after a South Korean research vessel was spotted operating in Japan's exclusive economic zone west of the Takeshima islets without obtaining Tokyo's consent, according to a Japanese government source. "It should not hope to have it both ways".


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