(ATTN: UPDATES with details in last 2 paras; ADDS photo)
By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, Feb. 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed in his telephone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday to strengthen cooperation between the neighboring countries in a desperate fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to Cheong Wa Dae.
They also agreed to share relevant clinical experiences of their countries, in addition to close partnership between their quarantine authorities, Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Kang Min-seok said in a press briefing.
Xi proposed the sharing of such clinical data, which he said China has accumulated via its monthlong battle against COVID-19.
Moon replied that South Korea expects a joint response with China to the deadly virus, including the exchange of the information to be of help to his government's quarantine measures, Kang said.
During the 32-minute conversation, Moon expressed his condolences over the deaths of Chinese patients.
Moon said he expects China to overcome the outbreak with the unified power of its people. He then requested continued interest and support for South Korean residents and companies in China.
Xi thanked Moon for South Korea's support in connection with the outbreak, saying a friend in need is a friend indeed.
Xi told Moon that he was very impressed by Moon's statement that China's suffering is also South Korea's suffering. Xi added that the two neighbors are cooperating to ride out the current adversity together "in one mind."
Despite the unexpected virus, Xi reaffirmed his plan to push for a visit to South Korea in the first half of this year as agreed. The two leaders agreed to let diplomatic authorities consult on specific schedules.
On regional security, Moon and Xi stressed that what's most urgent is that North Korea and the United States resume dialogue and that the two sides should "patch up their differences" over denuclearization.
Xi threw his weight behind Moon's recent message on peace on the Korean Peninsula. Moon emphasized that inter-Korean cooperation would facilitate Washington-Pyongyang negotiations.
It marked their fourth phone conversation as leaders of the Northeast Asian powers. They last met each other on Dec. 23, 2019, during Moon's visit to Beijing.
Earlier in the day, South Korea reported its first death linked with the coronavirus. The total number of people here infected with the disease has soared to 104 as 53 new cases were added on Thursday.
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