UPDATE : 2017.9.22 FRI 18:42
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Moon's special envoy heads to China for talks on summit, N. Korea

A special envoy of South Korean President Moon Jae-in embarked on his trip to China on Thursday for discussions on a summit between the countries' heads of state and ways to contain North Korea.

Also high on the agenda for the special envoy, Lee Hae-chan, was a prolonged row between Seoul and Beijing over the deployment of the U.S. missile defense system THAAD in South Korea, officials from Seoul's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae noted.

President Moon Jae-in (L) shakes hands with his special envoy to China, Lee Hae-chan, at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on May 16, 2017, after handing over his personal letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae) (Yonhap)

Before leaving for Beijing, Lee told reporters that summit talks between Moon and Chinese President Xi Jinping could take place on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting to be held in Germany in July and then again in time for Aug. 24 when both countries mark the 25th anniversary of building diplomatic ties.

"I will deliver such opinions (to the Chinese side)," he said.

Lee added that his trip to Beijing will place much emphasis on improving the frayed bilateral relations in such areas as personnel, the economy and tourism, which have taken the brunt of China's retaliatory measures against the THAAD installation on its soil.

"With regard to the THAAD issue, I will do my best to sufficiently explain President Moon's stance (to the Chinese side)," Lee noted.

The former South Korean prime minister was expected to meet with ranking Chinese officials, possibly including Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The special envoy's trip comes after Xi's invitation for Moon to visit Beijing during their telephone conversation last week.

During the long 40-minute call made by Xi, the Chinese leader explained reasons for Beijing's opposition against the THAAD deployment in South Korea, Cheong Wa Dae officials said earlier.

Moon said he understood China's position but noted many South Korean people and businesses in China were suffering from China's apparent economic retaliation against the deployment, asking Xi to personally look into ways to resolve the issue.

Apparently highlighting the importance he places on Seoul-Beijing ties, Xi earlier met with a South Korean delegation to an international forum held in Beijing.

Park Byeong-seug, a lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Party and head of the South Korean delegation, later noted the phone conversation between Moon and Xi appeared to have "triggered a mutual consensus on repairing South Korea-China relations."

The special envoy Lee's discussions were also expected to include ways to deal with increasingly provocative North Korea as his trip also follows the North's launch of an intermediate range ballistic missile that has prompted fresh condemnation from the U.N. Security Council in a statement backed by all Security Council members, including China.

President Moon has said he will utilize all available means, including dialogue, to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons, but that talks were possible only under the right conditions.

Lee is the third special envoy of the new South Korean leader to visit a foreign state. Moon and his special envoys have said their job was to relay Moon's personal message to his foreign counterparts, and letting them know what he planned to do with his country and North Korea.

A special envoy to Russia was expected to head to the European nation next week, with a separate envoy to the European Union and Germany also expected to embark on a trip in the near future.

Moon has also named a special envoy to the Vatican. (Yonhap)

Lee Sung-won  edt@koreapost.com

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