SEOUL – South Korean President Park Geun Hye and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Saturday agreed to stay in close touch in dealing with North Korean issues, according to South Korea’s presidential office.
The two leaders “exchanged candid opinions on the situation on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea’s nuclear issue and the issue of reunification of the Korean Peninsula, following the visit to North Korea made by Liu Yunshan, a member of the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee,” the office said in a brief statement.
Park and Li “agreed to further strengthen strategic communication between the two countries on the (North Korean) issue,” it said.
Liu, the Communist Party’s fifth-ranked leader, made a four-day visit to North Korea from Oct. 9 during which he presented a letter from Chinese President Xi Jinping to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Liu is China’s most senior official to have visited North Korea since Kim took power following the death of his father in December 2011.
At Saturday’s talks, the two leaders also agreed to seek the early implementation of a bilateral free trade agreement signed in June and also discussed ways to promote economic cooperation.
Park stressed the importance of expanding bilateral cooperation in the field of cultural industry.
“The two countries agreed to hold talks on concrete ways of cooperating on cultural industry and make joint inroads into the world markets,” it said.
At the outset of the talks, Park said she had met with three top-ranking Chinese leaders this year — President Xi, Premier Li and also Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China.
“I expect (such meetings) to help further develop strategic communication and relations between South Korea and China and greatly contribute to maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia,” Park said, according to the South Korean presidential office.
In response, Li said he is “happy to see China’s relations with South Korea becoming closer under President Park’s leadership.”
Li also said China wants to take “relations with South Korea to a higher level and also strengthen cooperation among China, South Korea and Japan to preserve peace and stability in Northeast Asia.”
The meeting took place a day before a trilateral summit with Japan, the first since May 2012.
While Japan and South Korea are finding it difficult to mend fences over wartime issues, South Korea’s relations with China are seen as being at their best in modern history.
China has become South Korea’s largest trading partner, and Park has already held talks six times with Xi since she took office in early 2013.
In September, representing South Korea’s increasing focus on China, Park attended a massive military parade in Beijing, where she was seen standing close to Xi. No other leaders from major democratic countries decided to attend the spectacle, however.
In stark contrast, Park and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are scheduled to hold their first official talks on Monday.
Li’s trip was his first official visit to South Korea since taking office in 2013, and also marked the first official visit to South Korea by a Chinese premier in five years.