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(2nd LD) S. Korea, China hold 1st defense ministers' talks in two years

2017/10/24 19:00

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(ATTN: UPDATES with background info in 5th para; ADDS photo)

By Lee Chi-dong

CLARK, Philippines, Oct. 24 (Yonhap) -- The defense chiefs of South Korea and China on Tuesday held their first bilateral talks in nearly in two years, taking a meaningful step toward warming relations chilled by a standoff over the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system on the peninsula.

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo met with his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan for about half an hour in Clark, the Philippines, on the margin of a regional security forum, a South Korean government official said.

But he would not elaborate what was discussed in the talks, citing a deal with China to keep related information unannounced.

Another official pointed out that such a bilateral meeting between the defense ministers is meaningful in itself, as it represents both sides' desire to improve ties despite the THAAD issue.

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo (R) shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan during a meeting in Clark, the Philippines, on Oct. 24, 2017, in this photo provided by Song's ministry. (Yonhap) South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo (R) shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan during a meeting in Clark, the Philippines, on Oct. 24, 2017, in this photo provided by Song's ministry. (Yonhap)

South Korea and China are major trade partners with massive cultural exchanges. China's cooperation is also crucial in resolving the North Korean issue.

It's presumed that the South Korean minister reaffirmed that the THAAD battery in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, is entirely aimed at defending South Korean and American troops stationed in the country from North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.

Song might also have assured Wang that South Korea won't join the U.S. missile defense network.

It remains unclear the defense ministerial talks will help immediately improve the Seoul-Beijing relations.

Song and Chang are among the participants in the 4th ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting (ADMM)-Plus.

The two countries had their previous one-on-one defense ministerial talks on the sidelines of the 3rd ADMM-Plus session in Malaysia in 2015.

lcd@yna.co.kr

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