Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in talks with his South Korean counterpart Chung Eui-yong Saturday said the two countries will work together to seek a “political resolution” of the Korean Peninsula issue.
Foreign Minister Chung met with Wang in Xiamen in China’s southeastern Fujian Province Saturday and discussed strengthening bilateral ties, the Korean Peninsula situation and other regional and global issues.
Wang told Chung at the beginning of their bilateral talks, “China will work with South Korea for a political resolution to the Korean Peninsula issue through dialogue,” and will “safeguard the international system” centred around the United Nations and jointly defend multilateralism. He also expressed Beijing’s interest in promoting bilateral relations with Seoul to “new levels.”
Chung in turn said, “Our government asks the Chinese government to continue to play a constructive role for the stable management of the situation on the Korean Peninsula to enable the substantive progress of the peace process.”
He noted that the two countries share the common goal of the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.
This marks Chung’s first trip since his appointment as Seoul’s top diplomat in February. The talks came as the national security advisers of South Korea, the United States and Japan met a little earlier just outside of Washington on Friday to discuss the U.S. review of its North Korea policy in a show of trilateral cooperation.
The parallel meetings come amid concerns over North Korea’s latest ballistic missile provocations and the rising Sino-U.S. tensions, which has often put Seoul in a difficult position as it tries to maintain a balance between its closest ally, Washington, and its largest trading partner, Beijing.
Wang said that South Korea and China are “strategic partners” that have “similar positions” on preserving regional peace and stability and pursuing global governance.
Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Saturday that Wang reaffirmed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s will to visit Korea and will work to arrange such a trip when the “Covid-19 situation stabilizes and conditions are met.”
The two sides further agreed on the need for continued cooperation to hold a three-way summit between the leaders of South Korea, China and Japan “as early as possible.”
Seoul and Beijing also agreed to hold a “two-plus-two” strategic dialogue on foreign policy and security, and vice foreign ministers’ talks within the first half of the year. They also pushed for people-to-people exchanges including between the two countries’ parliaments.
The two countries especially stressed cooperation amid the Covid-19 situation, including introducing a fast-track mechanism enabling essential travel during the coronavirus pandemic.
Chung expressed his appreciation for Beijing’s support of Seoul’s Northeast Asia Cooperation for Health Security initiative, and the two sides agreed to work together toward expanding the participation of countries in the region.
They agreed to adopt a joint plan for economic cooperation at an early date and work for an early entry into force of the 15-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), signed last Nov. 15 by all 10 ASEAN countries as well as South Korea, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Chung and Wang also agreed to speed along the second phase of Korea-China FTA negotiations.
The ministers said they will seek ways to advance the Moon Jae-in administration’s New Southern and New Northern policies, pushing for cooperation with those regions, and China’s Belt & Road Initiative.
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The two foreign ministers agreed that “strengthening substantive cooperation” in culture, economy, environment and history sectors “is crucial in advancing the bilateral relations,” said Seoul’s Foreign Ministry.
They further agreed to strengthen cooperation on environmental issues such as climate change and fine dust. Wang expressed support for the P4G Summit hosted by Seoul in late May.
They will also cooperate on historical issues including the preservation and management of historic sites of the Korean independence movement in China and joint research on mass graves in Hainan in southern China.
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported Wang saying that all related parties should actively try to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, effectively resolve the concerns of North Korea and establish a permanent peace mechanism on the peninsula through negotiation.
The Chinese minister added China is willing to communicate and “expand consensus” with South Korea and expects Seoul “to play a constructive role in this regard.”
Wang was also said to have conveyed that the two countries should focus on strengthening cooperation in fields such as 5G, big data, green economy, artificial intelligence, integrated circuits and new energy “to forge a partnership of high-quality cooperation.”
Wang since last Wednesday met bilaterally with the foreign ministers of four Asean countries — Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines — in Nanping City in Fujian Province ahead of his talks with Chung in Xiamen, located across from Taiwan. Some observers read the location of the meeting as having geopolitical significance, while Seoul officials stated the site was selected taking into consideration Beijing’s quarantine measures and other scheduling reasons.
Chung held talks with his U.S. and Russian counterparts in recent weeks, seeking their support in the Moon Jae-in administration’s vision of a peace process on the Korean Peninsula.
A South Korean foreign minister last visited China in November 2017. The last face-to-face meeting between the two countries’ top diplomats was in Seoul last November.