S. Korea, China Agree to Cooperate on NK stability

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South Korea and China have agreed to enhance cooperation to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Seoul’s foreign ministry said Tuesday.

The two countries also reached a consensus on bolstering “strategic communication” among decision-makers to have broader common ground in dealing with the nuclear-armed North.

The commitments came as China rapidly emerges as a key player in ensuring that the Stalinist regime remains stable during the power transition to its untested new leader Kim Jong-un after his father’s death last week.

South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Park Suk-hwan and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun reached the agreement during a meeting in Seoul. The meeting lasted three hours.

“It is very timely and significantly meaningful for the two sides to hold these talks at a time when security on the Korean Peninsula has been in focus since the passing of Kim Jong-il,” Park said in opening remarks.

Maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula is in the “common interest” of both South Korea and China, Park said, adding he hoped the talks would give the two nations a chance to broaden their “consensus on achieving that strategic target.”

In response, Zhang did not comment on the death of Kim, but said that South Korea and China are “on the cusp of a new historic starting point.”

The fourth annual high-level meeting was originally arranged to discuss a wide range of bilateral issues ahead of the 20th anniversary of Seoul-Beijing diplomatic ties, which falls next year. But Kim’s death became the top priority, officials said.

Prior to the talks, the Chinese vice minister met with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan.

The two reaffirmed the significance of North Korean stability and agreed to work closely together toward it, according to Cho Byung-jae, a foreign ministry spokesman.

“Under the current circumstances, both sides reached a consensus that the most important thing is to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” Cho told reporters. “To that end, the two sides agreed to keep close strategic communication and cooperation.”

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