President Moon Jae-in returned home on Dec. 16 after wrapping up a three-day and four-night state visit to China. President Moon’s summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Dec. 14 were aimed at putting soured Korean-Chinese back on track. Korean-Chinese relations, particularly in the economic field, were at their lowest levels recently as China retaliated over the installation of the U.S. Terminal Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) in Korea.
President Moon’s latest meeting with Chinese President Xi, the third between them since the former’s inauguration, was evaluated to have contributed to almost mending the sagging ties caused by the THAAD issue. During his state visit, Korea and China agreed to hold more negotiations for the expansion of the Korea-China Free Trade Agreement, a symbolic move to ease China’s economic sanctions over the THAAD issue.
One of the most urgently pending issues during the Korean-Chinese summit is the North Korean nuclear issue. Prior to President Moon’s trip, Chinese President Xi stressed his role in the matter.
The two presidents reached an agreement to follow four principles to secure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, Cheong Wa Dae said in a briefing on the outcome of the summit. It said, “First, war on the Korean Peninsula can never be tolerated; Second, the principle of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will be firmly maintained; Third, all issues, including the denuclearization of North Korea, will be peacefully resolved through dialogue and negotiations; and Fourth, improvement in inter-Korean relations will be ultimately helpful in resolving issues involving the Korean Peninsula.”
“The two heads of state agreed to continue close communication through telephone conversations by establishing a hotline and through exchanges of letters, as well as mutual visits and bilateral meetings on the sidelines of multilateral summits.
They also agreed to expand bilateral cooperation, which mainly focused on the economy, trade and social and cultural affairs, as well as people-to-people exchanges, into such areas as politics, diplomacy, security and cooperation between the political parties of the two countries. To this end, they agreed to revitalize a variety of senior-level strategic dialogues in addition to the one between the two presidents, it said.
“Besides collaboration between Korea and China,” the briefing said, “President Moon highlighted the importance of cooperation among countries in the region for the sake of peace, stability and prosperity not only on the Korean Peninsula but also in Northeast Asia. He went on to propose more frequent trilateral consultations in various formats, including Korea-U.S.-China and Korea-China-Japan meetings.”
“Strongly urging North Korea to stop its provocations, the two heads of state also shared an understanding that the North’s nuclear and missile development posed grave threats to peace and stability not only on the Korean Peninsula but in Northeast Asia and the rest of the world. They decided to work together to induce North Korea to come to the negotiating table through sanctions and pressure, including the faithful implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions,” according to the briefing.
“President Xi made the Chinese stance on the THAAD issue clear again, saying he hoped that Korea would continue to pay close attention to this issue and properly deal with it. He went on to note that even though it would take a long time to recover from frustration, bilateral relations were currently improving at a fast pace. He suggested both sides take extra special care and manage to prevent any recurrence of a similar problem,” it added.
260-Member Korean Economic Delegation Accompanies President Moon
An economic delegation consisting of about 260 businessmen accompanied President Moon on his state visit with the goal of turning around the soured ties between the countries caused by the THAAD issue. Bilateral trade has jumped 33-fold over the past 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic relationships. China is Korea’s largest trading partner and second largest country for investments. The delegation included executives from top four conglomerates: Samsung, Hyundai Motor Group, SK Group and LG Group.
Hyundai Motor Group Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun is the biggest beneficiary among the members of the economic delegation. President Moon toured Hyundai Motor’s plant in Chongqing, China, giving words of encouragement to workers there and holding a meeting with its cooperative companies.
President Moon told Vice Chairman Chung he wished his company could sweep the Chinese auto market. It was the first time that President Moon toured an overseas plant of a Korean conglomerate since his inauguration.