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(3rd LD) China, N. Korea's top diplomats hold talks during ASEAN meetings

All News 18:28 July 25, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more info)
By Koh Byung-joon

VIENTIANE, July 25 (Yonhap) -- The top diplomats from China and North Korea held talks on Monday in Laos, promising to work together to improve bilateral ties.

The meeting between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho was held at the National Convention Center in the Laotian capital on the sidelines of the regional forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), known as ARF. It lasted about one hour.

"We intend to work together for the sake of advancing China-North Korea relations," Wang Yi said in his opening remarks, which was unusually disclosed to South Korean reporters. "We plan to exchange our views on issues of mutual concern, including ties between the two countries."

In response, Ri expressed his hope for better ties with Beijing and thanked Wang for sending a congratulatory message for the 55th anniversary of a friendship treaty between the two allies.

After the meeting, an official who identified himself as a spokesperson for the North said that both discussed "how to advance relations between North Korea and China."

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

Expectations mounted for Wang-Ri talks even before their arrivals in Laos.

Leaving Pyongyang for Laos, Ri was seen off by China's ambassador, and it turned out that he and Wang took the same flight which came to Vientiane via Kunming.

They are also staying at the same hotel in central Vientiane, which added to the prospects that they could easily hold both official and unofficial talks at anytime.

The talks came as the two countries have shown signs of improving their traditionally close-knit relations that have been strained after North Korea's defiant military provocations despite warnings issued by Beijing and China's participation in international sanctions against Pyongyang.

After holding a press conference on his meeting with his ASEAN counterparts, Wang told Yonhap News Agency that the meeting with the North was "good," without elaborating further.

China's move to forge better ties with Pyongyang 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 a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system by the end of next year, a decision that was reached despite Beijing's repeated objections.

In his talks with his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se late Sunday, Wang strongly blamed the Seoul government for hurting the foundation of trust between the two countries by pushing to deploy THAAD. He called for "practical" measures from the South to bring the ties back to normal.

South Korea played down his criticism, saying that it is in line with what Beijing has been saying about the THAAD issue all along. It reiterated the stance that THAAD is aimed only at countering threats from the North, adding that it is part of its "national defense" effort.

kokobj@yna.co.kr

pbr@yna.co.kr
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