Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

China's top diplomat says hopes S.Korea can resolve THAAD issue

Xi delivered the message during his 40-minute meeting with Lee Hae-chan, a former prime minister and incumbent lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party who is visiting Beijing as President Moon Jae-in's special envoy.

Xi told Moon's representative Lee Hae-chan on Friday that his visit showed the importance the new South Korean leader attached to relations with Beijing.

Mr. Lee said South Korean President Moon Jae-In had dispatched him to China to keep communications open between the two countries "at a critical time".

A senior foreign policy adviser to Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the importance of relations with South Korea on Friday as the two countries attempt to mend a rift in ties over the deployment of a USA missile-defense system to guard against North Korean threats. It has retaliated against Seoul by suspending visits to South Korea by Chinese tour groups and trips to China by South Korean entertainers.

"China highly regards relations with South Korea as does South Korea", Xi was quoted as saying.

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China's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, called on Seoul on Friday to "respect China's major concerns and properly handle the issue of the deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defence system", according to the official Xinhua new agency.

During the call, the presidents discussed the deployment of the THAAD missile defence system in South Korea, which has always been criticized by China, as well as Moon's concerns about China's perceived economic retaliation against South Korea, according to Yonhap news agency.

The United States and South Korea have said the deployment is aimed purely at defending against any threat from North Korea, which experts have thought for months is preparing for its sixth nuclear test in defiance of United Nations sanctions.

While North Korea regularly tests shorter range missiles, it is also working to master the technology needed to field nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the U.S. mainland.

South Korea has complained that some of its companies doing business in China have faced discrimination in retaliation for the THAAD deployment. At a national security meeting on Sunday, Moon said dialogue is possible only in case of North Korea changing its attitude.

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