(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES with Park's remarks, details in paras 2-9)
By Song Sang-ho
HANGZHOU, China, Sept. 5 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye and her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Monday reconfirmed their differences over the planned deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system to South Korea, but agreed to strengthen their "strategic communication," Park's office Cheong Wa Dae said.
During the summit on the sidelines of an economic forum in China's eastern city of Hangzhou, Park repeated that the need for a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on the Korean Peninsula will disappear if North Korea's nuclear and missile threats are removed. She added that THAAD would only be aimed at North Korea and poses no threat to other countries.
The president also voiced hopes that the THAAD issue will be discussed in a "constructive and comprehensive" manner through communication among Seoul, Beijing and Washington, Kim Kyou-hyun, senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs, told reporters.
According to China's state-run Xinhua News Agency, Xi reiterated his opposition to THAAD during the summit, arguing that "mishandling the issue is not conducive to strategic stability in the region and could intensify disputes."
Held on the margins of the summit of the Group of 20 leading economies, the bilateral talks, the eighth between Park and Xi, were conducted amid friction between Seoul and Beijing over THAAD, a core element of America's global missile defense program.
"THAAD is a tool designed only to respond to North Korea's nuclear and missile (threats), and there is no reason why THAAD should encroach upon the security interests of a third country and there is no need for that either," she was quoted by Kim as saying during the summit.
"Following the North's firing of the Musudan missile and the submarine-launched ballistic missile, threats that our people feel is at an unprecedented level, and it is different from the level of threats China may feel," she added.
Park, then, underscored the need to continue dialogue to enhance "mutual understanding" through various bilateral channels.
"As the two sides have already exchanged their views on the THAAD deployment, Park explained South Korea's stance over why it has to take the self-defense measure in light of the gravity and urgency of the North's nuclear threats," the presidential aide told reporters.
During her opening remarks, Park called Pyongyang's continued provocations a challenge to relations between Seoul and Beijing, voicing her hope for the two sides to turn the situation into an opportunity to further strengthen their bilateral relationship.
"This year, the North conducted a fourth nuclear test and a ballistic missile provocation, which has seriously undermined peace in this region and posed a challenge to the development of the South Korea-China relations," she said at the summit.
"(I) hope that through earnest communication, our two countries can turn this challenge into an opportunity to further strengthen and move forward our bilateral relationship."
Touching on the bilateral ties, Xi said that the two nations should put their relations on the "right track" toward the stable and healthy development of their partnership, and play an "active role" for fostering peace in the region and the world.
Xi also pointed out that South Korea and China are close neighbors and share common interests, and that they should cherish the foundation of their political cooperation and surmount "difficulties and challenges."
The issue related to the stationing of the THAAD system on the Korean Peninsula has emerged as a major thorn in the Seoul-Beijing relations as Beijing strongly opposes it, saying it would hurt its security interests.
In a friendly gesture to Park, Xi noted during the summit that Hangzhou, the site of the G-20 summit, is where South Korea's government-in-exile carried out its campaign for several years in the 1930s against Japan's colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula. Japan colonized the peninsula from 1910-45.
"(Hangzhou) has a very special relationship with Korea," he said. "South Korea's venerated (independence fighter) Mr. Kim Koo led its struggle in Zhejiang province, and the Chinese people provided protection for Mr. Kim."
Park appreciated China's support for South Korean independence fighters, saying she values the long-standing bilateral relationship.
(2nd LD) S. Korea moves to limit classroom crowding amid persistent outbreak in capital area
S. Korea to test QR codes at nightclubs, eateries, cinemas to contain virus
Greater Seoul area continues to see double-digit rise in infections
S. Korea unveils new quarantine guidelines for everyday life
(LEAD) Logistics center-linked virus cases snowball to 69, emerging as another cluster in greater Seoul
Sampling blunder by BTS member serves as cautionary tale for K-pop act going forward
(4th LD) S. Korea again gripped by church-linked cluster infections in greater Seoul area
Church-tied virus cases on steady rise ahead of further school reopenings
Surprise transport onto THAAD base sparks suspicions over upgrade or additional deployment
'D-2' by BTS' Suga debuts at No. 11 on Billboard 200