South Korea, China hold talks over North Korea missile test, stalled diplomacy


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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: South Korean National Security Director, Chung Eui-yong (L) shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi (R) before their meeting at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China March 12 2018. REUTERS/Kenzaburo Fukuhara/Pool

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By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – The foreign ministers of South Korea and China held talks in Seoul on Wednesday amid concerns over North Korea’s recent missile test and stalled denuclearisation negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington.

The meeting came days after North Korea said it successfully tested a new, strategic long-range cruise missile last weekend, which analysts say could be the country’s first such weapon with a nuclear capability.

The test underscored steady progress in Pyongyang’s weapons programme amid a deadlock over talks aimed at dismantling the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in return for U.S. sanctions relief.

South Korea’s Chung Eui-yong met Wang Yi, who is also a state councillor, on the second day of a two-day visit, Seoul’s foreign ministry said.

Chung vowed to continue fostering peace with the North, expressing hopes that the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing could provide a chance to kick-start that effort.

“We expect China will consistently support our government’s Korea peninsula peace process,” he told Wang at the start of the talks.

“We wish that the Northeast Asia relay of the Olympics, from Pyeongchang in 2018 to Tokyo in 2021 to Beijing in 2022, will be held successfully as an epidemic-free, safe and peaceful Games.”

Wang asked for further cooperation to expand common interests and “more quickly, stably and fully” strengthen diplomatic ties which mark their 30th anniversary next year.

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Both sides held a separate meeting to map out steps to boost cultural exchanges, which have been scaled back in recent years amid China’s backlash over a U.S. missile defence system installed in South Korea.

Seoul and Washington say the equipment is designed to counter North Korean missiles, but Beijing argues the system’s powerful radar can penetrate into its territory.

On Tuesday, the chief nuclear negotiators of South Korea, the United States and Japan met in Tokyo, during which they agreed on the urgent need for dialogue and diplomacy to resume denuclearisation talks, according to South Korea’s foreign ministry.

The U.S. envoy, Sung Kim, said during the meeting that Washington has no hostile intent toward Pyongyang and hopes it will respond to offers for talks.

China, North Korea’s sole major ally, has played a key role in efforts to press it to dismantle its nuclear programmes.

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