Park and Xi hold their 5th summit in Beijing

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Park and Xi hold their 5th summit in Beijing

BEIJING - President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed during their fifth summit talk in the Chinese capital to cooperate in encouraging North Korea to make “a strategic choice” to give up its nuclear program.

In addition to concluding a free trade agreement, the two leaders also agreed that the foreign ministers of Korea, China and Japan need to sit down for a talk by the end of the year, signaling improving trilateral relations. The ministerial-level meeting, if realized, is set to become a follow-up gathering of the three neighbors’ high-level talks held in September in Seoul.

On the issue of North Korea, a topic Park and Xi devoted the largest portion of their conversation to following the FTA, the two promised to continue working on “creative and diverse” measures to resume “a meaningful dialogue” to make some progress in curbing Pyongyang’s expansion of its nuclear capabilities, said Ju Chul-ki, senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and security, in a briefing after the summit talk. He did not specify the nature of the “dialogue.”

President Park stressed a few points concerning North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. First, the regime won’t be able to achieve economic growth unless it gives them up, she told Xi. Second, the nuclear program, contrary to Pyongyang’s expectations, will only weaken its security. Lastly, the North needs to make a strategic choice of giving up nuclear weapons based on the recognition that they will only accelerate its isolation.

In response, Xi reiterated China’s position that the country “clearly” opposes North Korean nuclear arms and it would strictly abide by the United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Park and Xi have developed an increasingly amicable relationship, while the Chinese president has not visited North Korea since he was inaugurated in March 2013.

In a gesture of friendship with Xi, Park cited a phrase from the famous Chinese poet Du Fu in Chinese: “The longer the friendship is shared, the more friendly it becomes.”

“As the meetings with you repeat over time, I feel friendlier with you and Korea-China ties seem to deepen,” she said.

She was also rosy on the outlook that the trade agreement between the two countries will have on a global economy that is struggling, saying that Korea and China hope to continue developing their “strategic partnership.” Senior Secretary Ju described the free trade deal with China as the “most significant event” since the two countries forged diplomatic ties 22 years earlier.

The summit, which took place at the Great Hall of People on the sidelines of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit meeting here, came only four months after the Chinese president came to Seoul to reciprocate Park’s visit to Beijing in June 2013.

The Korea-China summit was followed an hour later by an attention-grabbing one-on-one meeting between Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the same venue. It was the first top-level sino-Japanese summit in three years since the two leaders’ predecessors, Hu Jintao and Noda Yoshihiko, sat down for a talk in December 2011. Xi and Abe were meeting face to face for the first time they took power nearly two years before.

The Xi-Abe talks came after the two countries agreed Friday on four points - resumption of political, diplomatic and security dialogue while acknowledging different positions on the East China Sea islands - to break diplomatic tensions over the disputed islands called Daiyou in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese.

During the 25-minute meeting, Xi urged Abe to follow a path of peaceful development and adopt prudent military and security policies, saying conforming to the progressive trend of the times is necessary for Japan to build stable and healthy bilateral relations.

Abe said in response that his country is determined to continue the path of peaceful development, noting that his administration will maintain the same views held by previous governments on historical issues.

China also seemed to want to put a little distance from interpretations that all was now well between it and Japan. In a statement the Chinese government posted on its homepage, it said the summit was realized “at the request of Japan.”

However, the handshake between China and Japan has placed Korea in a difficult position, given that Park has refused Abe’s repeated offers for a summit. It sticks to the stance that Japan should first take measures to restore the honor of surviving women sexually enslaved by the its military before and during World War II.

Separately, Park and U.S. President Barack Obama will hold a summit today, said Ju.

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