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(2nd LD) Lee, Xi agree on closer cooperation on N. Korea, climate change

All Headlines 14:31 December 17, 2009

By Lee Chi-dong
(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with Xi's schedule, expert's view, other details in last 5 paras)

SEOUL, Dec. 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping agreed Thursday to step up joint efforts to denuclearize North Korea and stem climate change, Lee's office said.

"For South Korea, China is not a mere economic partner but a very close partner in dealing with the North Korean nuclear problem and various other issues," Lee told Xi in their one-hour meeting here, according to presidential spokesman Park Sun-kyoo.

The president noted China's role as chair of the six-party nuclear talks, the main vehicle in efforts to dismantle the North's nuclear program and break its diplomatic isolation.

"I think next year will be an important juncture in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue. I hope China will play a bigger role," Lee was quoted as telling Xi.

In response, Xi, seen as a likely successor to President Hu Jintao, said South Korea also needs to push for inter-Korean reconciliation through dialogue and play a decisive role in resuming the six-way talks and improving the security condition on the peninsula, Park said.

In a brief formal conversation at Lee's office, the leaders also agreed to strengthen the partnership between the neighboring countries for the successful hosting of major international events, including the G-20 economic summit to be held in Seoul next year, the 2010 Shanghai Expo in China, and the 2012 Yeosu Expo in South Korean port city.

Afterward, the two had a breakfast meeting for about 50 minutes in which they spent a relatively long amount time discussing green growth, shortly before Lee was to depart for Copenhagen to attend the U.N. Climate Change Summit.

President Lee was quoted as saying that prospects for the global fight against climate change are not as dark as some advanced countries have forecast because related technologies continue to be developed.

He added the U.N. summit in Copenhagen may not produce a perfect agreement, but could serve as a good starting point.

Xi was quoted as telling Lee that China will actively participate in the world's efforts against climate change, but that a forceful limit on economic growth is not in its interest.

The vice president arrived here on Wednesday night for a four-day stay as part of his regional tour. He has traveled to Japan and also plans to visit Myanmar and Cambodia. He was accompanied by more than 50 Chinese officials including top nuclear envoy Wu Dawei and reporters.

He also met with National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyong-o and a group of business leaders. Xi is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Chung Un-chan later in the day and tour the "Experience Green Growth" museum in Gwanghwamun in central Seoul.

On Friday, Xi will travel to the ancient city of Gyeongju, some 370km southeast of Seoul.

The South Korean government is providing top-level protocol for Xi in consideration of his status. The presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae is in charge of bodyguard and security service for him.

Experts said Xi's visit is politically important to the future of relations between Seoul and Beijing, adding he is arguably the frontrunner in the presidential race in 2012.

"The main purpose of Xi's trip is to enhance his image as China's next leader and amass diplomatic experience," Lee Nam-joo, professor at SungKongHoe University said. "But its political significance can't be ignored in that he is a figure (expected) to be China's leader for a decade from 2012."

lcd@yna.co.kr
(END)

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