SEOUL, Dec. 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and China should build on progress in their relations and seek greater cooperation in economic and security issues, including tensions over North Korea's nuclear programs and provocations, Seoul's foreign minister said Wednesday.
Minister Kim Sung-hwan made the remark at a ceremony on the opening of a China research center at the ministry-affiliated Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security think tank. The center's launch is part of South Korea's efforts to enhance its capabilities to deal with the increasingly important neighbor.
"For our country, relations with China have been taking an increasingly important place in security and stability on the Korean Peninsula and our prosperity," he said. "Close cooperation between the two countries is essential on issues related to North Korea and nuclear and other North Korea issues."
South Korea and China established diplomatic relations in 1992. Since then, the two countries have made strides in their economic and trade relations, with China overtaking the United States as South Korea's No. 1 trade partner.
But their political and security relations have not moved forward enough to match the economic ties, with China still seen as trying to protect North Korea even when the regime makes provocations, such as last month's deadly artillery attack on a South Korean island.
Such attitudes deepened frustrations in South Korea about ties with the neighboring nation.
"It is essential that the two countries take an attitude of actively communicating about differences and cooperating while cherishing the achievement made in their relations so far," Kim said. "It is absolutely necessary and indispensable that South Korea and China constantly exchange views and cooperate closely."
Xing Haiming, charge d'affaires at the Chinese Embassy in Seoul, said Beijing "pursues peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and will make every effort for denuclearization" on the divided peninsula.
"China will make efforts for resolving problems through dialogue and cooperation and will try consistently to achieve the objective while joining hands with South Korea," he said at the ceremony.
The research center will focus on studying Seoul's policies on China while providing China-related education programs and serving as a hub connecting other local research institutes. The foreign ministry also plans to add an office to its bureau handling China affairs to better deal with issues related to the neighboring nation.
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