S. Korea to dispatch veteran politician to China forum for possible fence-mending

May 12, 2017

SEOUL, May 12 (Yonhap) — South Korea will dispatch a veteran politician with close ties with President Moon Jae-in to join a key Chinese government forum to be held in Beijing next week, the presidential office said Friday, heralding a possible recovery of the bilateral relations marred by the deployment of an American-built defense system here.

At the invitation of China, a delegation led by Rep. Park Byeong-seug of the Democratic Party will attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that will kick off on Sunday for a two-day run, senior presidential secretary for press Yoon Young-chan said in a briefing.

“The dispatch of the delegation is what (Chinese) President Xi Jinping asked when President Moon held a telephone conversation with him yesterday,” Yoon said, referring to the first telephone talks between the presidents on Thursday.

The delegation will also include two other ruling party lawmakers, Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam and a high-level official from the finance ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

“Through the latest forum, the South Korean side plans to explore ways to cooperate bilaterally for regional co-prosperity, including its participation in the Chinese government-led the One Belt, One Road initiative, the ministry said.

The delegation will leave for Beijing on Saturday to join the forum, another government official said earlier in the day.

 

 

“An official invitation came from China recently,” he said on condition of anonymity. “We decided to send a delegation comprised of Rep. Park and other government officials.”

Park, a five-term veteran lawmaker, served as co-chairman of Moon’s presidential campaign team.

His delegation is expected to meet key Chinese government officials on the sidelines of the forum to discuss ways to repair their bilateral ties strained over the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system, known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD. in South Korea, the official said.

An encounter with North Korean participants may not be ruled out as Pyongyang is also sending its delegation led by the external economy minister to the Chinese forum, according to the official.

The forum is part of China’s so-called “One Belt, One Road” project that focuses on its economic connectivity and cooperation with the countries in Eurasia and as far as Europe and Africa. It was suggested by President Xi in 2013.

As bilateral tensions continued over the deployment under the previous Park Geun-hye government, China had skipped invitation of South Korea to the regional forum while sending out invitations to dozens of other countries including North Korea.

Moon was sworn in as new South Korean president on Wednesday, filling the leadership vacuum prompted by the ouster of Park over a massive scandal. Experts see it as a sign that China is reaching out to South Korea amid friction over the missile system deployment.

The two Asian neighbors have experienced a chill in relations as Beijing has strongly opposed the installation of the THAAD battery for fear it could hurt its security and carried out retaliatory economic measures against South Korean businesses.

On Thursday, Moon and Xi had a phone conversation and agreed to improve the two countries’ ties and cooperate over North Korea’s denuclearization.

kokobj@yna.co.kr

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