S. Korea, China to hold military talks on N. Korea
SEOUL, Jan. 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and China plan to discuss a joint response to North Korea's recent nuclear test during their regular working-level defense talks later this week, the Ministry of National Defense said Thursday.
The annual director-level consultation to be held in Seoul on Friday will provide the militaries of the two countries with the opportunity for the first direct talks since the North conducted what it claims was a successful hydrogen bomb test on Jan. 6.
"This year's meeting is intended to discuss bilateral cooperation and exchanges in the defense segment as before, but countermeasures to the North Korean nuclear test will also be dealt with," a ministry official said.
South Korea has been scrambling to forge a united front with China in making the North pay the price for the defiant nuclear detonation test.
But China has subtly deviated from the international community's efforts for stringent punishment, putting "peace, stability and dialogue" ahead of harsh punitive action.
Those differences have slightly put them apart on the North Korean nuclear issue since the recent test, with Defense Minister Han Min-koo's request for a telephone conference with his Chinese counterpart remaining unanswered as of Friday.
Against that backdrop, President Park Geun-hye called on China to play a "necessary role" in slapping stronger sanctions on North Korea during her televised national address Wednesday.
Other salient issues to be discussed will include South Korea's repatriation of the remains of Chinese soldiers who fought in the 1950-53 Korean War.
South Korea has sent home the remains of 505 Chinese soldiers, which were buried in South Korea's enemy cemetery, over the past two years, but the remains erroneously included those of North Korean soldiers.
The neighbors were battlefield foes, with China fighting alongside North Korea against the South during the three-year war.