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(3rd LD) S. Korea, China agree to maintain close communication on THAAD

All News 17:36 June 20, 2017

(ATTN: CHANGES dateline; RECASTS headline and throughout with results of meeting)

BEIJING/SEOUL, June 20 (Yonhap) -- Senior officials from Seoul and Beijing agreed on Tuesday to have frequent and close communications on the controversial deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in South Korea, Seoul's foreign ministry said.

The agreement was reached during a high-level strategic dialogue in Beijing between Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam and his Chinese counterpart Zhang Yesui, according to the ministry.

"The two sides exchanged their views on the THAAD deployment issue and shared the need to maintain frequent and close communications," the ministry said in a press release.

The meeting marked the first of its kind in 16 months, providing a chance to mend fences following months of diplomatic friction.

Their ties have been frayed since Seoul's decision in July last year to allow for the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery on its soil.

Seoul and Washington claim that it is aimed at defending against North Korea's evolving threats, but Beijing argues that it could be used against its military, taking what many see as retaliatory steps against South Korea in diverse areas.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters at a regular press briefing in Beijing that the two sides held an in-depth meeting on diverse issues including THAAD and agreed to work hard to bring their relations back to normal by ramping up communication and finding ways to resolve any differences.

Despite Tuesday's meeting, the two neighbors remained far from ironing out differences on THAAD.

China's foreign ministry said that Zhang reaffirmed Beijing's previous stance on THAAD, while Lim emphasized the need to lift any "obstacles" standing in the way for exchanges between the two countries in economy, culture and other areas.

The spokesman called for South Korea to demonstrate its "political" will, keep promises and make efforts to improve the ties as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, before holding the meeting with Jang, Lim paid a courtesy call on Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi.

Yang told Lim that both countries should cherish what they have accomplished over the past 25 years since establishing diplomatic ties, adding that they should "respect each other and work hard to protect their shared interests."

He also said that improving and advancing ties between South Korea and China are in the interest of the two countries, expressing hope that Lim's trip to China would serve as a boost to that end.
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