Park-Xi Summit Bolsters Korea-China Ties to Expand to Security, Diplomatic, Political Areas
The two chief executives’ personal bonds play huge role in bringing the two neighbors ever closer in areas including denuclearizing the North and Park visiting Beijing before North Korea’s new leader
President Park Geun-hye shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping as they meet for summit talks at the Great
Hall of the People in Beijing on June 27 during the Korean president’s state visit to China. (Photos:Cheong Wa Dae)
The state visit to China from June 27-30 by Korean President Park Geun-hye to hold summit talks with President Xi Jinping was a resounding success in many ways, helping to upgrade relations with a nation that has become a world power and maintains close relations with North Korea, and therefore could play a big role in denuclearizing the North, which is South Korea’s major concern. The Chinese government invited the South Korean president to Beijing before inviting North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un, an unusual move showing possible shift in China’s ties with North Korea, according to North Korea watchers.
President Park also met with Premier Li Keqiang and Chairman Zhang Dejiang of the Chinese National Peoples Congress, ranked Nos.2 and 3 in the Chinese Communist Party hierarchy, meeting all top three leaders in China.
President Park Geun-hye shakes hands with Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of
the People on June 28 in Beijing during her state visit to China June 27-30.
The four-day trip also has undoubtedly strengthened Park’s friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping. They spent long hours together in meetings and a luncheon along with the first lady in an unusual show of hospitality at a secluded ancient Chinese guesthouse on June 28 for seven-and-a-half hours. President Xi said he agrees with President Park’s trust-building policies as they will be a growth engine for Northeast Asia. The two sides also agreed to set up a dialogue channel between Korea’s presidential national security chief and China’s state councilor and also a hotline between the foreign ministers of their countries. The two leaders also agreed to expedite the free trade agreement between the two nations as early as possible.
What made President Park’s state visit such a successful one may be owed to her long friendship with the Chinese president dating back from 2005 when Xi made his first visit to Seoul as a Chinese provincial official and two later visits, with the last one coming in 2009 when he was the vice president of China. He even made a trip to Gyeongju to visit such important historical assets as the Sukgulam and the Bulguksa Temple, which dates back to the sixth century during the Shilla Kingdom.
Park met with Xi in Seoul during all of his visits and in 2009 as chairwoman of the then-ruling Grand National Party. Park also met with Xi when she visited Beijing in 2009 as a special envoy of then-President Lee Myung-bak. They made phone calls to each other to exchange congratulations when each of them became the top leader of his or her country. President Xi made a phone call in February when Park was formally inaugurated as president to congratulate her.
The two top leaders didn’t waste the special relationship between them. Recalling her visit to China recently, she recalled the top Chinese leaders including President Xi and Premier Li Keqiang are firmly against a nuclear North Korea and support peace on the Korean Peninsula at a meeting with editorial writers and columnists of newspapers and TV stations held on July 9 at Cheong Wa Dae, the presidential mansion.
President Park is greeted by Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong
before she gave a speech at Tsinghua University in Beijing on June 29.
Foreign Minister Yoon Byung-se also revealed that President Park and her entourage had a serious and in-depth discussion on the reunification of the divided Koreas with the top Chinese leaders while in Beijing.
Political sources saw the visit as a move by President Park to use her special relationship with Xi to bring Seoul and Beijing closer amid abrupt changes in the political landscape in Northeast Asia as North Korea continues threats to detonate nuclear bombs.
Park tried to show how important China is to Korea, but also to the world in denuclearizing the North. She sometimes spoke in Chinese at meetings as well as during her speech at Tsinghua University in Beijing, President Xi’s alma mater, winning huge applause from Chinese audiences and leaders at meetings as she gave a good impression to the Chinese people as a rare foreign leader who could speak in their own language in a bid to win their friendship. Officials said Park studied Chinese by herself and has a relatively good command of the language.
President Park Geun-hye, accompanied by President Xi Jinping of
China, inspects a military guard at a plaza in
front of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing before they
set down for their first summit on June 27.
“Only about 20 years have passed since South Korea and China established diplomatic relations in 1992, but friendship and cooperation have developed at a pace nearly unprecedented in the world,” Park said during a speech at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.
“I believe that Korea-China relations should now move forward into a more mature and substantial partnership,” she said. “I intend to pursue dialogue and cooperation in a more forward-moving way based on the deep trust forged with President Xi through the summit.”
On June 29, Park also offered to return 360 sets of remains of Chinese troops killed in the 1950-53 Korean War, a symbolic gesture of friendship toward the former battlefield foe. During the war, China fought alongside North Korea against the U.S.-backed Allied Forces.
Park made the proposal during a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong right before her speech at Tsinghua University. Liu expressed gratitude, saying the offer well conveys Park’s friendship toward China.
President Park Geun-hye gives a speech at Tsinghua University in Beijing on June 29.
After the meeting, the two sides issued a wide-ranging joint statement pledging to bolster cooperation in all sectors, including political and security areas. Also adopted was an appendix that lays out a string of specific cooperation commitments to make sure that the joint statement will be enforced in both countries.
In an effort to bolster political and security cooperation, the two sides agreed to establish a dialogue channel between South Korea’s presidential national security chief and China’s state councilor in charge of foreign affairs. They also agreed in principle on setting up a hotline between their foreign ministers.
The agreement was highly meaningful given that Seoul and Beijing have made strides in their economic relations since the 1992 establishment of diplomatic relations, but their political and security relations have not moved forward enough to match the economic ties.
President Park Geun-hye is on a visit to a car plant in Beijing of Hyundai Motor Co
The summit was also followed closely to see how much support Park would win from China in pressuring Pyongyang to give up its nuclear programs because it took place as Beijing has been taking an unusually tough stance on the North after its December rocket launch and February nuclear test.
According to the joint statement issued following the summit, the two sides agreed that North Korea’s nuclear program poses a serious threat to regional and world peace, and pledged to work closely together to make the Korean Peninsula free of atomic weapons.
But the document stopped short of clearly stating that a nuclear North Korea is unacceptable.
China has been and still is a major ally of North Korea, providing key economic assistance to the impoverished country such as rice and oil, but lately the country began to show changes in its policies to Pyongyang over its nuclear bomb experiments.
Since the nuclear test, China has backed a U.N. sanctions resolution against the North and has been carrying out the restrictions more vigorously than before. Beijing even joined separate American sanctions by suspending all transactions with the North’s Foreign Trade Bank, which was accused of financing Pyongyang’s nuclear programs.
On economic issues, another key subject in President Park’s agenda in China, the two sides agreed to step up efforts to expand bilateral trade volume to $300 billion by 2015 and make progress in ongoing negotiations to free up trade between two of Asia’s biggest economies, according to the communique.
Last year’s trade volume between the two close neighbors amounted to $215 billion.
The two countries also agreed to extend their currency swap deal by three years to keep it valid until 2017. South Korea and China agreed in 2011 to double their won-yuan swap line to 360 billion yuan. That accord was to expire in 2014. On the second leg of the trip, Park made a visit to the ancient Chinese city of Xian.
Xian, an ancient capital with more than 3,000 years of history, is a base for China’s push to develop western parts of the country and has great potential for economic cooperation as the city could serve as a foothold for South Korean firms trying to expand into Central Asia and Europe.
Park discussed economic cooperation with Zhao Zhengyong, the Communist Party chief of the province.