China's Xi calls for S. Korea ties to get back on track

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday promised to work with the United Nations to completely denuclearize communist North Korea, the presidential office said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has met with a special envoy sent by new South Korean President Moon Jae-in as the two countries attempt to fix relations damaged by China's strong objections to the deployment of a high-tech American missile defense system in South Korea meant to guard against North Korean threats.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (C) consoles family (L) of the deceased before a tomb at the annual 18 May Democratic Uprising memorial at the Gwangju 18 May National Cemetery in the southwestern city of Gwangju, South Korea, 18 May 2017, as the government holds an annual ceremony to mark the 37th anniversary of a pro-democracy uprising. State media said that Lee affirmed that South Korea understood China's major concerns and would cooperate with China to remove any obstacles that hinder the development of bilateral ties.

That echoed sentiments expressed Thursday by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who said relations were at a "crossroads" and told Lee he hoped South Korea would "correct the problems we have encountered".

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.

"President Moon told me to have enough conversation and exchanges in this visit so that South Korea and China can build a comprehensive cooperative partnership", he said to Wang, whom he has known since 2013. The impeachment and ouster of Park Geun-hye, which precipitated Moon's election, left a vacuum in South Korea's leadership at a time when tensions on the peninsula rose to the highest in years.

Hong is expected to meet with officials from the Trump administration to arrange the schedule and the agenda for the US-South Korean summit that is supposed to take place in late June.

While it is unclear whether Lee discussed the THAAD issue with China's president, it was raised during his meeting with top Chinese diplomat and state councilor Yang Jiechi.

"I will deliver such opinions (to the Chinese side)", he said.

Apparently highlighting the importance he places on Seoul-Beijing ties, Xi earlier met with a South Korean delegation to an global forum held in Beijing. The first test will come later this month when the parliament opens a hearing to confirm President Moon's Prime Minister Nominee, Lee Nak-yeon.

The North has vowed to develop a missile mounted with a nuclear warhead that can strike the mainland United States, saying the programme is necessary to counter USA aggression. Also confirmed was cooperation to counter North Korea's nuclear arms and missile threats.

A special envoy to Russian Federation is expected to head to Moscow next week.

  • Carolyn Briggs