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Signs indicate Seoul, Beijing seek to mend fences after THAAD row

Signs indicate Seoul, Beijing seek to mend fences after THAAD row

Posted October. 27, 2017 08:49,   

Updated October. 27, 2017 09:34


There are signs indicating that South Korea and China, under President Xi Jinping’s newly started second term in power following the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China, are seeking to improve the bilateral ties soured by Seoul’s deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system called the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). Some observers expect a Seoul-Beijing summit, while others caution that it is too early to be optimistic as Beijing is still adamantly opposed to the THAAD deployment.

“I understand that China reviewed its major foreign policy, including Korean Peninsula affairs, before the party congress began and has completed it,” a diplomatic source said. It is believed that Beijing also reviewed its gains and losses from the row with Seoul over the THAAD issue and has reached a conclusion on the need and ways to mend fences with South Korea. Qiu Guohong, the Chinese ambassador to South Korea, who continued to make hardline remarks about the THAAD deployment, has lately been actively engaged in public diplomacy by communicating with South Koreans from various fields. Reportedly, he plans to invite South Korean journalists for a briefing on the results of the party congress and express hopes of improving ties with Seoul.

South Korea’s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae is also quietly seeking a Seoul-Beijing summit. “We expect to see a positive sign,” a senior Cheong Wa Dae official said. It also expects to be able to address the North Korean nuclear issue in a forward-looking way through improved ties with China. The stumbling block is, however, how to get out of the THAAD issue. While some observers project that the South Korean government will likely express regret, Cheong Wa Dae denied any such direct expression‎.

Wan-Jun Yun zeitung@donga.com · Sang-Jun Han alwaysj@donga.com