"South Korea will pay special attention to the fact that THAAD [missile defense system] will not be used elsewhere, except for defense against North Korean nuclear weapons and missiles, it will not undermine China's security interests. The American side has repeatedly said that it respects the promises made on this issue," South Korean President Moon Jae-in told the CCTV broadcaster in the light of his upcoming three-day visit to China, set to start on Wednesday.
The statement was made amid sharp criticism from China caused by the deployment the THAAD final units to South Korea in September, which Seoul and Washington consider to be an important military deterrence measure against a potential nuclear strike from North Korea, but viewed by Beijing as a move that might undermine the security balance in the region and Seoul's credibility.
The South Korean president went on saying that he was planning to travel to China with a four-day state visit on Wednesday.
"This will be my third meeting with President Xi Jinping, but it will be my first visit to China. The main goal and the focus of this visit will be to restore the trust between South Korea and China," Moon said.
Moon noted that the diplomatic relations between Seoul and Beijing had been established 25 years ago and witnessed quick development, but mutual trust had been damaged lately.
"I believe that mutual trust is of primordial importance for the development of bilateral relations. If South Korea and China turn out to be able to restore mutual trust during my visit, to deepen friendly feelings between the two nations, it will be a landmark event," Moon said.
In late October, South Korean President Moon Jae-in traveled to Beijing for a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, which led to the agreement to normalize bilateral relations affected by the deployment of the system.
Most recently, Japan, South Korea and the US began joint military drills on December 11, the sixth trilateral exercises between the nations since June 2016, criticized by Beijing. The two-day exercise is taking place in the Sea of Japan and involving four warships: the Japanese JDS Chokai guided missile destroyer, the South Korean DDG Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong destroyer, and the American USS Stethem and Decatur guided missile destroyers.
China is North Korea's key trade partner, accounting for more than three-quarters of all their foreign trade. Both nations have agreed to UN sanctions levied against North Korea as retaliation for the expansion of their nuclear missile program.