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2008/05/29 11:22 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 5 (May 29, 2008)

   *** TOPIC OF THE WEEK

S. Korea, China Agree to Cooperate for Peace on Korean Peninsula

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea and China have agreed to closely cooperate for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia and for progress in the six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The two neighboring countries made the agreement in a summit in Beijing on May 27 between South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao.

   Based on the summit talks, the two countries announced a joint statement the next day calling for significant upgrades in bilateral exchanges along with cooperation in diplomacy, security, economy, social issues, culture and manpower exchanges.

   The six-point statement, encompassing almost all aspects of Sino-South Korean relations as well as regional and global issues, was announced shortly after President Lee held talks on May 28 with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in downtown Beijing.

   Lee held summit talks with Hu shortly after his arrival in Beijing on May 27, with the two leaders agreeing to upgrade South Korea-China relations to a strategic and cooperative partnership. The contents of the joint statement are entirely based on the summit agreement reached between Lee and Hu.

   "China remains unchanged in its support for improvement in inter-Korean relations through dialogue and negotiations and for the peaceful unification of the two Koreas. South Korea recognizes China's constructive role in promoting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," said the statement.

   "Lee and Wen repeatedly stressed the importance of mutual trust in South Korea-China relations during their talks and dinner at the Diaoyutai and agreed to work together for their co-prosperity," Lee's spokesman Lee Dong-kwan said. They also shared views on the importance of building tripartite relations between South Korea, China and Japan as well as contributing to global peace.

   Lee also met with Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and reconfirmed his bid to peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear dispute through close cooperation with China. Jia is the fourth-most-powerful person in the Chinese Communist Party.

   On the economic and commercial front, the statement stressed that South Korea and China have agreed to reinforce practical cooperation and bilateral investment in the fields of information technology, financial services, atomic power generation, energy, science and technology.

   During the summit with Hu, Lee highly evaluated China's constructive role in boosting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and explained his government's determination to pursue a win-win situation with North Korea through serious inter-Korean dialogue and expand inter-Korean economic cooperation depending on the progress in the denuclearization of the North.

   "In response, Hu reiterated the Chinese government's previous position that it would support improvement in inter-Korean relations through dialogue and negotiations and eventually a peaceful unification of the two Koreas," according to Lee's office.

   Hu also said he and Lee agreed to work together to realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. "As a friend to both Koreas, China sincerely wishes for steady improvement in inter-Korean relations. As in the past, China will steadfastly support the two Koreas' reconciliation efforts," said Hu.

   On May 28, Lee said the upgraded relations between South Korea and China will benefit North Korea in the future. "South Korea and China have not improved bilateral relations for a long time due to China's long ties with North Korea. Hu and I agreed to elevate South Korea-China relations to a strategic and cooperative partnership," Lee said in a breakfast meeting with Korean business leaders at a Beijing hotel.

   "Considering inter-Korean relations, the new strategic partnership between South Korea and China is extraordinary. Its immediate impact on inter-Korean relations is not certain yet, but it will eventually be beneficial to North Korea," said Lee.

   "President Hu and I held wide-ranging and candid dialogue on ways to upgrade South Korea-China relations and deepen cooperation on North Korea and Korean Peninsula issues, as well as on regional and global issues," Lee said in a joint news conference held at the Great Hall of the People in downtown Beijing after the summit.

   But there was no explicit mention of Hu regarding Lee's idea of three basic ideas in Seoul's new North Korea policy. Lee's initiative proposes to help bring the communist state's per capita income to US$3,000 once it denuclearizes.

   Presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan said the Chinese president expressed understanding of Lee's three basic concepts toward North Korea. When the South Korean president visited the U.S. and Japan in April, the leaders of the two countries openly supported Seoul's new policy toward the communist North.

   The South Korea-China summit opened as chief U.S. nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill and his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye-gwan arrived in Beijing on May 27 for talks that could be one of the last steps before Pyongyang submits a list of its nuclear programs as required by a six-way deal.

   The envoys focused their efforts on finalizing protracted discussions on Pyongyang's declaration of its nuclear holdings, according to sources. They also addressed the thorny topic of the North's past abduction of Japanese citizens. The six-party talks are likely to restart next month, given the latest progress in international efforts to end a stalemate on the North Korean nuclear problem.

   Under the three-stage deal concluded last year, North Korea is obliged to abandon its nuclear programs in return for economic aid and diplomatic incentives. The George W. Bush administration has promised to take steps to remove North Korea from its list of terrorism-sponsoring nations as soon as the communist country submits the long-overdue nuclear declaration.

   On the same day as the summit, China's Foreign Ministry said that South Korea's military alliance with the United States is a holdover from the past. "The ROK-US military partnership is a leftover from history," Spokesperson Qin Gang said in a regular news briefing in the Chinese capital. He added that countries should not try to handle current international and regional security issues with outdated mindsets.

   The mutual defense pact is the centerpiece of South Korea's defense policy, and has been used as a deterrent against North Korean aggression following the Korean War (1950-53). It permits the stationing of about 28,000 U.S. troops who could be used to deal immediately with any North Korean military action.

   China helped its communist ally North Korea fight against South Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War. The South Korea-U.S. alliance dates back to the war. Qin also said China is pushing for new security arrangements based on mutual trust, profits, equality and cooperation, and such goals can be reached through joint efforts with countries like South Korea.

  (END)