China has asked the new government of South Korea to make efforts toward improving strained relations between the two neighboring countries.
Beijing is angry at US deployment of an advanced missile system to South Korea, that became operational earlier this month on the Korean peninsula, seeing it a threat to the regional security balance.
South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in has expressed ambivalence over the THAAD system, telling Chinese President Xi Jinping last week that he was “well aware” of Beijing’s concerns about it.
Moon dispatched his envoy Lee Hae-chan to Beijing on Thursday after calling for bilateral talks last week to “increase understanding” over the missile system.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi greeted Lee, urging South Korea’s new government to remove “obstacles” to good relations which have undergone “some undeserved setbacks,” referring to THAAD.
“We hope the new government will correct the problems that we have encountered and take effective measures and positions as soon as possible to remove the obstacles that have been placed on the road to good relations between our two countries,” he said.
Moon’s spokesman, Yoon Young, said last week that the special delegation to Beijing would “exclusively discuss the THAAD and the North’s nuclear issues”.
The new South Korean president who took office on Wednesday favors engagement with the North whose key diplomatic supporter is China.
Tensions have escalated on the Korean peninsula amid US browbeating which has taken a new turn under President Donald Trump.
The US has sent new warships and strategic bombers capable of carrying out nuclear attacks to the region, prompting Pyongyang to react with a series of missile tests.
In their phone conversation last week, President Moon and President Xi agreed that North Korea was a “common goal” between them.
“We believe South Korea will bring clear measures to improve relations,” Wang told Lee on Thursday.
Pyongyang has vowed to pursue its missile and nuclear programs as a deterrent tool to ward off threats from Washington.