N. Korea issues mustn’t become hurdle to Seoul-Beijing ties, Yoon tells Chinese premier

Posted on : 2023-09-08 16:59 KST Modified on : 2023-09-08 17:13 KST
The South Korean president met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang on the sidelines of an ASEAN summit in Indonesia
President Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea takes a photo with Premier Li Qiang of China ahead of their talks on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept. 7. (Yonhap)
President Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea takes a photo with Premier Li Qiang of China ahead of their talks on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept. 7. (Yonhap)

“The worse the North Korean nuclear issue gets, the more South Korea will need to cooperate with the US and Japan. I hope that North Korea won’t be an obstacle in South Korea-China relations,” said South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Thursday in Jakarta. Yoon was in Indonesia to attend meetings related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“The North Korean nuclear issue is an existential issue for us. Unless that issue is resolved, the system of cooperation between South Korea, the US and Japan will have to grow even stronger. I hope that China will carry out its duty and responsibility as a permanent member of the UN Security Council,” Yoon said in his meeting with Li at the Jakarta Convention Center on Thursday. Yoon’s remarks were shared by the presidential office and Kim Tae-hyo, the first deputy director of Korea’s National Security Office.

Li Qiang, who is responsible for the Chinese economy, attended the ASEAN meetings in lieu of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Yoon held a summit with Xi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, in November 2022. Li briefly responded to Yoon’s comments, but the presidential office didn’t disclose the details of his response.

“I think this was a chance to reflect upon working with China in the process of dealing with the issues of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs,” a senior member of the presidential office said.

Yoon expressed his hope that China will help arrange a trilateral summit with Japan in South Korea as soon as possible, and Li promised to “engage proactively.” Korea is slated to be the host of the next Korea-Japan-China summit.

The senior official at the presidential office stressed the possibility of a trilateral summit being held before the end of the year. “We can start by arranging a meeting between our three countries because there are no objections from Japan. That meeting can then build momentum for holding other high-level meetings and summits with China and uncovering areas for trilateral cooperation in ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific region.”

Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo have not sat down for a summit since the one in Chengdu, China, in December 2019.

The two also stressed economic cooperation. “Since both Korea and China support multilateralism and the free trade order, we should cooperate on building a rules-based international order that is predicated on those systems,” Yoon said.

Kim Tae-hyo said the president’s remarks “can be interpreted as meaning that Korea and China can mitigate many bilateral issues and build trust if they abide by the established rules and practices that have multilateral agreement in the international community.”

Yoon and Li’s meeting began at 3:25 pm on Thursday and lasted for 51 minutes. While conveying Xi’s regards to Yoon, Li said, “Korea and China are close neighbors. Neighbors who work together and get along can form a relationship that’s even more valuable and precious than distant relatives.”

Yoon responded by expressing his hope that “there will be more high-level exchange between our two countries in the future.”

By Kim Mi-na, staff reporter

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