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Moon, Xi agree on principles to solve nuclear crisis

Leaders vow to prevent war and use dialogue to end Pyongyang's provocations
Dec 15,2017
Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping after attending a memorandum of understanding signing session in Beijing on Thursday. [YONHAP]
BEIJING - The leaders of Korea and China declared key principles Thursday to resolve the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, vowing to prevent war and use dialogue.

President Moon Jae-in and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a summit and agreed to four principles to enable peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, the Blue House said in a press statement. The two leaders talked for two hours and 15 minutes in two rounds of discussions accompanied by aides.

According to the statement, Moon and Xi agreed that they will not accept a war on the Korean Peninsula. They agreed to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and to look for a peaceful resolution through negotiations to resolve all issues regarding denuclearization of North Korea.

Moon and Xi also agreed that improvement of inter-Korean relations is important to resolve the crisis on the peninsula.

Urging the North to stop provocations, Moon and Xi agreed to work together to pressure Pyongyang to start negotiating through sanctions and pressure, including faithful implementation of UN resolutions, the statement said.

In addition to the North Korea issue, the two leaders agreed to get beyond a year of diplomatic strain and economic pain touched off by the deployment of an American antimissile system in Korea. According to the statement, Moon and Xi agreed to a wide range of measures to repair their strained ties. In addition to bilateral summits, a hot line will be established between the two presidents to continue close communications.

Korea-China relations deteriorated over the past year as Beijing lashed out at Seoul for its decision to host the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system to deter North Korean nuclear and missile threats. Although the Moon administration stressed that the measure was “temporary,” China carried out a year-long unofficial economic blockade against Korean companies and forbade group tours going to Korea. Beijing said its powerful radar can spy on Chinese territory.

Efforts to steady a relationship put into a tailspin were made over the past months and the foreign ministries of Seoul and Beijing announced on Oct. 31 that the two countries agreed to normalize exchanges and cooperation in all areas.

“Xi reiterated China’s position on the Thaad issue and said he hopes Korea takes the issue seriously and handles it properly,” the press statement said.

“It takes a long time to recover from a setback, but relations between the two countries are now improving fast,” the Blue House quoted Xi as saying in the press statement. “The two countries should pay special attention to prevent any recurrence of this situation and properly manage the issue.”

According to the Blue House, Moon also stressed the Oct. 31 agreement to normalize the strained ties. “It is important for the two countries to restore the bilateral relations as soon as possible based on mutual respect toward the main interests of the two countries,” Moon was quoted as saying.

A senior Blue House official said after the summit that the two leaders had a very candid discussion. “There was no specific mention about the Thaad issue,” he said. “They mainly talked about how to manage the situation properly and create momentum to restore relations.”

He said Xi addressed China’s concerns about the Thaad in a more abstract way, rather than making straightforward demands. “There were some remarks that allow us to say that there is a new improvement in relations,” he said.

It was a departure from Xi’s previous attitude. During a summit in November, the second of its kind, Xi had urged Moon to “make a responsible decision on Thaad that stands the test of history.”

According to the official, no discussion took place at the summit regarding China’s other security concerns. Earlier, Seoul made clear that no additional Thaad system will be deployed in Korea and it will not join the U.S.-led missile defense regime. Korea also said it will not create a trilateral military alliance with Japan and the United States.

The source said Moon did not make a direct demand to Xi to end economic retaliations. “Moon talked about improving ties in various areas,” he said. “”It was addressed in an indirect way.”

According to the press statement, the two leaders also agreed to closely cooperate in Korea’s hosting of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games in 2018 and China’s hosting of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games in 2022. Moon invited Xi to the Pyeongchang event, and Xi promised to seriously consider it. If he cannot attend, he will send a senior delegation, the statement said.

The two leaders also agreed that North Korea’s participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games would contribute to improve inter-Korean relations and ease tensions in Northeast Asia. They agreed to work together to encourage the North to participate, the statement said.

According to the source, Moon also made a roundabout request to China to put pressure on the North. “There was no specific request for an oil embargo,” the official said. “Moon said he expects China to play more of a role.”

On the second day of a four-day state visit to China, Moon attended a series of events hosted by Xi. After an official welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, the two leaders faced each other in two rounds of talks, accompanied by their senior aides.

“Although the two countries recently experienced a momentary hardship, I believe it was an opportunity to walk in each other’s shoes,” Moon said in opening remarks before the summit. “It was a meaningful time in order to bridge a chasm and build a larger mountain.”

“Through this summit, I hope the two countries’ relations will be advanced to the next level,” Moon said. “I expect us to take the first step together to begin an exquisite journey to write a history of peace and prosperity.”

Xi said in his opening remark that he thought Moon’s visit had a special meaning in the aftermath of the Thaad spat. He, however, avoided mentioning the issue directly, fueling anticipation of a thaw in frosty diplomatic and economic relations.

“For the reason everyone knows now, China-Korea relations experienced regression,” Xi said. “I believe Moon’s visit will serve as an important opportunity to create a better path for us to improve relations based on mutual respect and trust.”

Xi also said Korea-China relations and affairs surrounding the Korean Peninsula are in a crucial moment. “I cherish relations with Korea,” Xi said. “I want to improve effective strategic communication with Moon. I hope to expand interests of the two countries, strengthen bilateral relations and set the right direction to exercise a driving force for improvement of the bilateral relations.”

During the summit, Moon and Xi sat down to two rounds of talks. The first round involved many officials from the two countries. A signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding between the two countries to expand a bilateral free trade agreement to investments and services followed, and the second round of presidential talks took place. In that round, Moon and Xi were accompanied by only a few key officials.

According to a senior presidential aide, Xi mentioned the Thaad issue during the second meeting.

The arrangement was different from an ordinary presidential summit, in which two leaders sit down for an exclusive meeting first and then hold an extended session with additional officials from the two governments. When Moon had bilateral summits with U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the customary order was observed.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]