South Korean leader in Beijing for talks on North Korea’s nuclear arms
Park Geun-hye and China leadership to push North Korea to rejoin nuclear disarmament talks
South Korean president Park Geun-Hye and her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping inspect the honour guard during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday. Photograph: Wang Zhao/Getty Images
South Korean leader Park Geun-hye arrived in Beijing yesterday to meet the Chinese leadership in a bid to keep pressure on China to act as honest broker in efforts to defuse regional tensions around North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.
The four-day visit marks the first formal discussions between Ms Park and the new Chinese leadership, led by President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
The South Korean president’s visit brings together North Korea’s arch-rival and its biggest ally for meetings that will put Pyongyang under greater pressure to rejoin nuclear disarmament talks that also would include the US, Russia and Japan. The six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear programme have been stalled since 2009.
“We hope all sides can seize this opportunity to work to return to the six-party talks as soon as possible,” Mr Xi told reporters after his talks with Ms Park at the Great Hall of the People, the seat of government in the heart of Beijing.
Ms Park, who taught herself Mandarin Chinese, has said she is keen to support the Chinese in the drive for North Korean denuclearisation discussions.
“The two leaders shared a common view on denuclearising North Korea, maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and resolving issues through dialogue and negotiations,” Ms Park’s office said in a statement after they met.
China’s relationship with South Korea is complicated. Economic ties are booming, but politically they have little in common because China is North Korea’s only significant ally. China backed North Korea in the 1950-1953 Korean War, and the late Mao Zedong’s eldest son was killed in the conflict with the south. The 60th anniversary of the end of the war is July 27th.
China’s input basically keeps the North Korean economy afloat, but South Korea has major cultural importance in China and Chinese consumers love South Korea’s tech wares.
The relationship has become thornier of late, after North Korea ramped up tensions with last year’s long-range missile launch and February’s third nuclear weapon test.
The test prompted Beijing to show its disapproval by backing tougher UN sanctions and cracking down on North Korean banking activity. While the political aspect of the trip is important, the economic dimension is also significant. Ms Park is accompanied by 71 companies, highlighting the close economic ties that have lifted China above the US as South Korea’s top trading partner.