By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, Oct. 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and China held high-level defense talks for the first time in five years on Monday and agreed to make joint efforts for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and for deeper bilateral ties, Seoul's defense ministry said.
The fifth South Korea-China vice ministerial strategic defense dialogue took place in Beijing, with Vice Defense Minister Park Jae-min leading the South Korean delegation, and Lt. Gen. Shao Yuanming, deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department of China's Central Military Commission, representing China.
The annual dialogue, launched in 2011, had been suspended since the last session in 2014 amid tensions over Seoul's decision to host an advanced U.S. missile defense system.
Then in July 2016, Seoul and Washington officially announced their plan to deploy a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery to South Korea, leading to the suspension of defense exchanges between Seoul and Beijing until earlier this year.
"During the talks, the two sides shared the notion that China's constructive role, along with South Korea's efforts, is crucial for the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the establishment of a permanent peace," the ministry said in a release.
"For peace and stability in Northeast Asia, the two sides need to strengthen their strategic communication," it added.
Speaking highly of the normalization of the defense exchanges between Seoul and Beijing, the two sides also agreed to push for their defense ministers to visit each other's country and to set up more hotlines between their air forces and navies, according to the ministry.
Currently, the two sides have one such channel between Seoul's master control and reporting center and China's northern theater command.
"The strategic dialogue, which has resumed after five years, served as a chance for the two countries' defense authorities to solidify their trust and to strengthen their strategic communication," the ministry said.
Though South Korea and the U.S. have said the THAAD system aims at better defending against missile threats from Pyongyang, China protested strongly, claiming that it would undermine its strategic security interests.
Park, who is on the second day of a three-day trip to Beijing, also paid a courtesy call on China's Defense Minister Wei Fenghe on Sunday and asked for China's help in making progress in the North Korea nuclear issue and the denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
Park also attended the 9th Beijing Xiangshan Forum under way in Beijing.
North Korea's vice defense minster, Kim Hyong-ryong, also joined the security forum, but it is not certain if the senior defense officials of the two Koreas will have a separate meeting.
The Xiangshan security forum is China's answer to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore organized by a Britain-based think tank. This year's event brought together 500 government officials and security experts from 68 countries and seven international organizations, according to Seoul's defense ministry.
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