Xi Jinping to discuss nuclear crisis with South Korea’s Moon

Moon Jae-in to go to Beijing in effort to repair trade links damaged by missile defence row

South Korea’s president Moon Jae-In: Relations with China have been strained since the deployment of the Thaad system by Seoul. Photograph: Yonhap/AFP

South Korea’s president Moon Jae-In: Relations with China have been strained since the deployment of the Thaad system by Seoul. Photograph: Yonhap/AFP

 

South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in travels to Beijing this week for talks with China’s Xi Jinping, with the agenda expected to focus on the North Korean nuclear crisis and normalising economic relations strained over a missile interceptor row.

Mr Moon will meet Mr Xi on Thursday, during a four-day state visit which will include two days in Chongqing in southwest China.

“President Moon’s state visit to China is expected to be an opportunity for the countries to normalise their bilateral ties in earnest by repairing the trust between the two countries and deepen the friendship between the two leaders,” said Nam Gwan-pyo, a deputy director of the South Korean president’s national security office, quoted by the Yonhap news agency.

“Also, the two leaders are scheduled to hold in-depth discussions on ways to peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear issue and establish peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Mr Nam said.

Relations between South Korea and China have been under strain since the deployment of the American Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) system by Seoul earlier this year.

The South Koreans said it was to defend against North Korea’s growing belligerence, but the Chinese said it threatened their territory.

Normalising relations

The summit on Thursday will the third meeting of the leaders since Mr Moon took office in May. The leaders issued a joint communique in October about normalising relations, and they previously met at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Danang, Vietnam, in November.

After the Thaad row, China began a boycott campaign that severely damaged South Korean interests in China. China is South Korea’s biggest trading partner, accounting for nearly a quarter of total trade.

Among those worst-affected were the Lotte conglomerate, which supplied the golf course in South Korea where the Thaad system was sited, and which ran 112 supermarkets in China. Nearly 90 were shut and the rest sold off as business dried up.

The number of Chinese tourists dropped by half to 2.5 million people, and car companies such as Hyundai saw a 40 per cent drop in sales.

Some kind of normalisation is expected before Mr Xi travels to South Korea in February for the Winter Olympics.

Meanwhile, north of the border, leader Kim Jong-un made a pilgrimage to Mount Paekdu, an active volcano on the border with China that is a sacred mountain closely linked with the rise of the Kim dynasty.

The visit is being interpreted as a celebratory gesture to mark the successful launch of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile last month and the “historic completion of the state nuclear force”.