UPDATE : 2018.9.24 MON 04:34
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Moon, Xi vow efforts to improve ties, peacefully denuclearize N. Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday called for efforts to improve the two countries' relationship and reaffirmed their joint position to peacefully end North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

During their summit in Beijing, the leaders reached an agreement on four basic principles in dealing with North Korea's nuclear threat, Moon's top press secretary Yoon Young-chan told a press briefing.

"The four principles agreed by the two leaders were that first, a war on the Korean Peninsula can never be tolerated. Second, they will firmly maintain their principle on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," he said.

They also reaffirmed their commitment to peacefully resolving all issues, including denuclearizing North Korea, through dialogue and negotiations, and agreed that an improvement in inter-Korean relations will help resolve such issues on the Korean Peninsula, he added.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) speaks at the start of his bilateral summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Dec. 14, 2017. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) speaks at the start of his bilateral summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Dec. 14, 2017. (Yonhap)South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) speaks at the start of his bilateral summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Dec. 14, 2017. (Yonhap)

Moon arrived here Wednesday for a four-day state visit. The summit, the third of its kind since Moon took office in May, came about two weeks after North Korea launched an apparent intercontinental ballistic missile, resuming its military provocations following a 75-day hiatus.

The leaders also expressed hopes to improve ties which have been frayed by a bilateral dispute over the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in South Korea.

Seoul and Beijing agreed to put their bilateral relationship back on the "normal track" in a joint statement issued Oct. 31, but many believe China has yet to fully let go of its grudge.

Moon called for a "new start" in South Korea-China relations.

"I believe that trust is most important not only in a relationship between persons but also between countries," he said at the start of the bilateral meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, according to pool reports. "I wish to solidify the foundation for a new era in the relationship between the two countries based on trust and friendship between us two leaders."

Xi asked South Korea to continue implementing the Oct. 31 agreement, according to Yoon.

"Regarding the THAAD issue, President Xi reiterated China's position and said he wishes the South Korean side will continue to respect its stance and adequately address the issue," Yoon said.

The Chinese president earlier noted the Seoul-Beijing relationship had suffered a setback due to the THAAD issue.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (second from L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) review a Chinese honor guard at a welcome ceremony held shortly before their bilateral summit in Beijing on Dec. 14, 2017. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (second from L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) review a Chinese honor guard at a welcome ceremony held shortly before their bilateral summit in Beijing on Dec. 14, 2017. (Yonhap)South Korean President Moon Jae-in (second from L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) review a Chinese honor guard at a welcome ceremony held shortly before their bilateral summit in Beijing on Dec. 14, 2017. (Yonhap)

President Moon insisted the dispute may well be turned into an opportunity, saying the two countries were partners destined to walk the path of co-prosperity together and work for the peace and prosperity of Northeast Asia and the entire world.

Possibly signaling an apparent thaw in ties, the countries signed a memorandum of understanding to start negotiations on expanding their bilateral free trade agreement to include the service and financial sectors. The FTA, which went into effect in late 2015, focuses on manufacturing goods.

In addition to the agreement, nearly a dozen other MOUs aimed at enhancing the countries' economic and trade cooperation were signed in a ceremony attended by both leaders.

To enable direct and frequent dialogue between the two leaders, Moon and Xi agreed to set up a new communication hotline, according to the Cheong Wa Dae official.

Moon again extended his invitation for the Chinese leader to visit the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Xi said he will positively consider the offer, or at least send a high-level delegation if he is unable to make the trip.

The two leaders also urged North Korea's participation in the event, noting it will not only help improve the South-North Korean relationship but also contribute to reducing tension in the Northeast Asian region. (Yonhap)

Shin Eugenia  edt@koeapost.com

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