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Park vows warmer ties with Beijing

Publication Date : 11-01-2013

 

South Korea's President-elect Park Geun-hye pledged to reinforce the strategic partnership between Korea and China during her meeting with special government envoys from Beijing on Thursday

The four-member Chinese delegation led by vice foreign minister Zhang Zhijun made a courtesy call on Park at her temporary office in Tongeui-dong, downtown Seoul.

The meeting came as Seoul and Washington are intensifying calls on Beijing to agree to propose tougher sanctions against North Korea over its long-range rocket launch December 12. Park reiterated her policy of curbing Pyongyang’s provocation and nuclear ambition while leaving doors open to dialogue and trust-building with the North.

“Park told the envoys that she will keep open the window of dialogue and cooperation through a trust-building process and humanitarian aide to the North,” Park’s spokeswoman Cho Yun-sun said. Zhang, in response, expressed support to Park’s “trustpolitik” approach.

With regard to the pending UN resolution against North Korea’s December 12 long-range rocket launch, the Chinese envoy was quoted as telling Park that his government maintained their position not opposing the UN Security Council’s December 10 condemnation against the launch. China remains reluctant against taking stepped-up sanctions against the reclusive state.

The Chinese envoy delivered the letters from China’s President Hu Jintao and General Secretary of the Communist Party Xi Jinping, who will assume China’s top post in March. Park thanked the delegates’ visit and congratulated her Chinese counterpart’s new leadership, stressing that she hoped to further strengthen the trust and friendship with China through frequent high-level visits.

Adding that she believed the important foundation of the rapidly improving bilateral ties was due to the cultural-historical solidarity, the president-elect said, “Should such cultural-historical exchanges be made between the people and among the next generation, I believe the youth of both countries will grow up with amicable sentiment toward each other and become the solid foundation of a strategic cooperation partnership.”

Xi said in the letter, read aloud by Zhang, that Korea was China’s important neighbour, a strategic cooperation partner and a crucial player in the region, emphasizing that mutual understanding and trust-based cooperation between the two was crucial for regional peace and development. Xi then said Beijing will exert joint efforts to inherit the past and develop the future for new and enhanced bilateral relations. Xi also asked Park to send her special envoy to China in the near future.

This was the second diplomatic visit made by one of the four major regional powers ― US, China, Japan and Russia ― to the newly elected South Korean leader. The envoy of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Park on January 4. US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell is visiting Seoul next Tuesday and is widely expected to meet with Park during his two-day trip. Observers said China’s choice to send Zhang, the next potential foreign minister, showed the country’s hopeful anticipation of working with Korea’s next government.

The meeting came amidst Seoul and Washington’s efforts to pass a UN Security Council resolution to sanction Pyongyang for its successful rocket launch. China, one of the five permanent members with the right to veto, has remained at bay over the option.

Earlier in the day, Zhang met with Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and acknowledged the rapid development of the two countries’ ties and discussed ways to further foster their relations.

Since the two countries normalised ties in 1992, China has become Korea’s No. 1 trading partner, although their diplomatic cooperation remained complicated due to Beijing’s tolerance to North Korea’s provocation.

Kim and Zhang agreed to strengthen their communication for stable management and solution of the pending problems including that of North Korea and its nuclear ambition.

During the campaign, Park had highlighted her devotion to enhancing ties with China, often doing so by showing off her Chinese-speaking skills. Park was also President Lee Myung-bak’s special envoy to China five years ago upon his election. Reports and sources have said Park also maintains friendly acquaintanceship with Xi Jinping.

The president-elect’s foreign policy pledges include a plan to upgrade the relations with China befitting the “strategic cooperation partnership” status in parallel to the traditionally strong and comprehensive strategic alliance with the United States.

The sensitive task of maintaining healthy relations with the two global giants is considered one of the crucial tasks of the Park administration. China is also considered a key mediator between the two Koreas, who are seen to be cautiously measuring each other’s stance.

North Korea has publicly proposed that Park clarify her North Korean policy via its major mouthpieces, while Park’s transition team has reportedly suggested they are reviewing ways to alleviate the economic sanction imposed by the Lee government.

A friendlier mood prevailed in Korea and China over Seoul’s recent court decision to repatriate a Chinese national who set fire to Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine instead of extraditing him to Japan, prompting a warm response from Beijing and an angry protest from Tokyo.

Korea last year celebrated the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties with China, currently in tense confrontation with Japan in their territorial dispute.

On the economic front, Korea is pursuing a free trade agreement bilaterally with China and trilaterally with China and Japan.

 

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