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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Times on Sept. 7)

All Headlines 07:02 September 07, 2016

Park-Xi THAAD talks
--Korea-China summit provides momentum for improving relations--

The leaders of Korea and China held talks during the final day of the G20 Summit, Monday. The primary focus of the highly-anticipated meeting between President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping was how they would handle their differences over the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system on Korean soil. This was the first Korea-China summit since Seoul announced a decision to host a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, July 13.

The THAAD issue has become one of the most serious impediments in bilateral relations, but the Park-Xi meeting provided strong momentum for improving relations from here onwards.

Amid escalating tension, the meeting that took place on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou is a positive sign that the two countries are on a path toward communication rather than confrontation on the issue.

During Park's term in office, Korea-China relations have gone from best to worst. It seemed to reach a high point when she accepted Beijing's invitation to a commemoration ceremony in September 2015 for the end of World War II at the risk of upsetting Washington. However, bilateral relations have noticeably deteriorated since Korea decided to host the U.S. missile defense system here against Beijing's staunch opposition. Many Koreans perceive Beijing's repeated denouncement of THAAD as an encroachment on Korea's internal affairs.

During the meeting the two leaders were unyielding on their own positions on THAAD. President Park reiterated her position that the system was a necessary self-defense measure against North Korea and that the necessity for THAAD would no longer exist after North Korea' s nuclear and missile threats were removed. She also reassured her Chinese counterpart that it will not hamper Beijing's security interests in any way. Xi said that THAAD is not conducive to stability in the region and could intensify disputes.

Although Korea and China are still very much apart on the THAAD issue, the Park-Xi summit produced some positive and future-oriented outcomes. First, President Park suggested a new discussion path in a three-way framework, involving Korea, China and the U.S., on the THAAD issue. It remains to be seen whether China and the U.S. will accommodate Park's proposal, but it will be a useful occasion to promote dialogue and consultation on the security issues on the Korean Peninsula and strengthen security cooperation among the three countries.

Second, the summit was timely because it confirmed the strong friendship of the two countries and the high level of trust between the two leaders. Xi paid tribute to the leaders of Korea's provisional government that was based in Hangzhou in the early 1930s during the Japanese colonial rule of Korea.

During the summit, Xi said China was committed to the "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and maintaining peace and stability." This is also something that Korea is striving for. The two countries are on the same page on the ultimate goal of maintaining peace on the peninsula.

THAAD should not hamper the fruitful relations the two countries have developed since the historic establishment of bilateral relations in 1992. The two countries recently celebrated the 24th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Based on the history of the two countries' strong friendship, Korea and China should work together to become stronger partners in the areas of security, economy and culture despite some lingering differences.
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