Looking forward to better Beijing relations

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Looking forward to better Beijing relations

President Yoon Suk-yeol held his first face-to-face meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia. It was the first summit between South Korea and China in three years. Although the talk lasted just 25 minutes without a joint statement due to their tight schedules during the G20 summit, the meeting between Yoon six months in office and Xi who entered his third term may become a turning point in the stalemated bilateral relationship.

President Yoon vowed to cooperate to build a “mature” bilateral relationship based on mutual trust, stressing close communication can serve the interests of both countries. He stressed the government’s diplomatic goal is to lead and contribute to freedom, peace and prosperity in East Asia and the international community” and that “China’s role in the international community is important in the pursuit of freedom, peace and prosperity.”

Xi noted the two nations were “inseparable partners” and “close neighbors,” agreeing on the need for strategic communication and mutual trust. He called upon stronger communication and cooperation via the G20 and other platforms to uphold “true multilateralism.” By opposing politicization of economic cooperation, Xi implied a complaint over the U.S.-led Chip 4 alliance that proposes to include South Korea.

The two leaders put aside differences over the U.S. Thaad missile defense system deployment in South Korea and agreed to regularize high-level talks.

But they failed to hit the same chord on the theme of North Korea and its nuclear weapons development. President Yoon asked China to play a more aggressive role as the permanent member on the UN Security Council. But Xi stopped at calling for more improved inter-Korean ties in the future.

Still, the two leaders have helped set the bilateral relationship on a path of dialogue and cooperation at the critical point of the 30th year in their normalized diplomatic relations.

Talks between U.S. President Joe Biden and Xi the previous day also helped ease global uncertainties from the conflict between the two superpowers amid multiple troubles on the global front. Their talks lasting more than three hours had been “frank” over several issues, including the ongoing Ukraine war, the trade war, North Korea, and Taiwan. They did not cross a “red line” first.

The two summits also agreed to not build up a Cold War-like ambience and turn the contest into a zero-sum game. A face-off between the two powers could be avoided, although tensions still remain. The two made clear their differences over the North Korean nuclear and missile threat. Seoul must come up with wiser strategy.
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