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(LEAD) China, N. Korea's top diplomats hold talks during ASEAN meetings

All News 15:06 July 25, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, UPDATES throughout)
By Koh Byung-joon

VIENTIANE, July 25 (Yonhap) -- The top diplomats from China and North Korea sat down for talks on Monday during Southeast Asian countries' meetings in Vientiane as the traditional allies seem to be moving toward mending their frayed ties in the wake of Beijing's diplomatic row with Seoul over a military deployment plan.

The meeting between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho began at noon at the National Convention Center in the Laotian capital on the sidelines of the regional forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, known as ARF.

It was the first ARF meeting between the foreign ministers of the two close countries in two years after they skipped talks during the previous ASEAN gathering in Malaysia last year.

The talks came as the nations have shown signs of improving their traditionally close-knit relations after North Korea's defiant military provocations and China's participation in international sanctions efforts on Pyongyang hurt bilateral ties.

China's move to forge better ties with Pyongyang also came on the heels of the Asian power's relations with South Korea taking a turn for the worse over the move to deploy an advanced U.S. missile defense system on the Korean Peninsula.

Earlier in the month, Seoul and Washington announced they will deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system by the end of next year, a decision that was reached despite Beijing's repeated objections.

Attention has been paid to whether China and North Korea will hold talks at this year's ASEAN gathering as Wang and Ri arrived in Laos on Sunday by taking the same flight that departed from Beijing.

Late on Sunday, Wang told Yonhap before going into his talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, "It could be possible" to have a bilateral meeting with the North. He didn't elaborate further at the time.



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