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

Delia Watkins
May 20, 2017

South Korean special envoy Lee Hae-chan (L) meets China's President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China May 19, 2017.

He added that China hopes South Korea's new government will "correct the problems" and take measures as soon as possible.

It's believed the envoy and his delegation are also working on arrangements for a summit between the two countries' leaders, possibly this August, when Seoul and Beijing will mark 25th years of diplomatic relations.

Chinese President Xi Jinping told a South Korean envoy on Friday he was willing to put relations back on a "normal track" amid tensions over a United States anti-missile system deployed on the Korean peninsula.

A rap group backed by China's government is warning South Korea in a music video that "you're going too far" with the deployment of a US missile defense system, as Beijing seeks to bring its state-supported cultural forces to bear in the worldwide dispute.

However, Xi's comments helped push up the shares of several South Korean companies that rely on the spending of Chinese tourists, whose visits have fallen sharply amid the THAAD dispute.

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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.

President Moon, who took office last week, repeatedly vowed during his election campaign to renegotiate the agreement, which was reached under his predecessor's administration and drew criticism that it does not reflect the former comfort women's wishes.

For his part, Lee said Moon asked him "to express his thanks to President Xi for his message of congratulations after our election".

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. The initiator behind the deployment of THAAD on South Korean soil is Washington, but China chooses to keep silent about the role of the U.S., while tacitly supporting the boycotts of angry Chinese consumers. Quite unusual for a South Korean president as the invite comes just ten days into the newly-elected leader's term. In return, Moon's sending of Lee Hae-chan as a special envoy to China is another sign of both countries' intentions to build bridges.

Speaking to reporters after Thursday's meeting, envoy Moon Hee Sang confirmed that the "comfort women" issue had been raised, but did not offer further details. His envoy for Russian Federation will leave next week.

Moon also met with Fukushiro Nukaga, head of a nonpartisan group of Japanese lawmakers for friendship between the two countries.

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