President Park Geun-hye requested Chinese leader Xi Jinping to persuade North Korea to return to dialogue during a phone call Wednesday to congratulate Xi on his inauguration as president.
They also discussed ways to bolster bilateral relations during their first conversation since Park was inaugurated on Feb. 25 and Xi assumed presidency last week.
The talks took place amid North Korea’s stepped-up saber-rattling in response to tougher international sanctions over the reclusive state’s Feb. 12 nuclear test.
Cheong Wa Dae explained such a congratulatory phone call between the summits of the two countries was the first since Korea and China normalized diplomatic relations in 1992.
Park asked Xi for joint efforts to fortify strategic communication, increase civil exchanges and expand interactions between the youth to further boost the two country’s strategic partnership, Cheong Wa Dae spokeswoman Kim Haing said.
Xi in return thanked Park and said China also hoped to advance into the future with Korea, and that the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula are also in the national interest of China.
The two leaders invited each other for a visit in a near future and agreed on the need to exert efforts to persuade the North to return to dialogue. Park in particular asked Xi for enhanced bilateral cooperation at the U.N. Security Council, to which Xi promised active cooperation.
Park and Xi are to meet at the three-way summit talks gathering leaders of South Korea, China and Japan in Seoul in May.
Seoul’s cooperation with Pyongyang’s only ally is considered key in tackling the North’s nuclear ambition, while Beijing faces heightened pressure to become more stringent in sanctioning the defiant regime.
Besides their cordial exchanges of congratulatory letters since last December, Park and Xi have met in July 2005, as chairwoman of South Korea’s main opposition party and as party secretary for the Zhejiang province, respectively.
The fledgling leaders face crucial tasks domestically, to uplift slowing economic growth, balance out social benefits and eradicate corruption, as an information-savvier public grows more demanding.
In doing so, both have launched their governments by championing universal jargon ― “happiness” for Park and “dream” for Xi.
Park said Xi’s emphasis on the “Chinese dream” had a thread of connection with her drive for happiness.
Observers have called for the new South Korean government to bolster relations with the second biggest world economy under Xi, who is anticipated to be more populist at home, and more vocal and influential abroad.
By Lee Joo-hee (email@example.com