China's Xi says willing to help end rift with South Korea

Lotte Mart’s homepage in China

Lotte Mart’s homepage in China

Chinese President Xi Jinping told a visiting South Korean envoy on Friday that he was willing to put relations with Seoul back on a normal track after ties were soured by the United States placing an advanced anti-missile system in South Korea.

Korean envoy Lee Hae-chan (left) shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before a meeting in Beijing, China on Thursday.

Lee arrived Thursday for a three-day visit to China following Moon and Xi's first phone conversation since Moon's inauguration earlier this month.

"From a year ago, the South Korea-China relationship suffered a setback which should not have happened, and this is an unwanted situation", Wang said at the meeting.

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Chinese official media quoted Xi as saying China is committed to resolving any issues through dialogue and coordination.

For his part, Lee said Moon asked him to express his "gratitude" to Xi for his message of congratulations after the election.

Tension has remained high on the Korean Peninsula over the past months between the United States and North Korea over the U.S. threat to stage military attacks against Pyongyang in response to its nuclear and missile programs.

Hopes are rising in Beijing that Seoul would reconsider the deployment of US missile defense on the peninsula since Moon was elected.

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The installation of the Thaad has resulted in an unofficial boycott of South Korean companies operating in China, including the supermarket chain Lotte, which had provided land in South Korea for the deployment.

More South Koreans have become wary since U.S. President Donald Trump had said Seoul should pay $1 billion for THAAD after it was already in operation.

The United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea to guard against the North Korean threat, has called on China to do more to rein in its ally and neighbor.

Moon sent envoys to the United States, China, Japan and the European Union this week in what the government calls "pre-emptive diplomacy".

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The two leaders have provisionally agreed to hold talks as soon as possible, with the sidelines of a summit of Group of 20 major economies in Germany in July being earmarked as a possible opportunity for this to happen.

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