20:51 GMT +322 March 2018
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    In this Nov. 11, 2017, photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands as they pose for a photo during a meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum in Danang, Vietnam.

    South Korea Looks to Strengthen Economic Ties, But is China a Willing Party?

    © AP Photo/ Ding Lin
    Asia & Pacific
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    Arriving in Beijing Wednesday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in landed with the hope of deepening economic relations after relations between the two neighbors turned frosty in 2016 over Seoul's use of the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

    "Over the past 25 years, South Korea-China relations have achieved extraordinary development in the economic sector, but their relations in the political and security sectors fell short of such development," Moon said, Korean news agency Yonhap reported. "I will work to develop South Korea-China relations in all other areas to put them on a par with the development in the economic sector, so the South Korea-China relations will not falter due to external factors."

    One of these "external factors" is certainly North Korea, toward which the two countries have advocated different approaches — though Moon came to power espousing a much sunnier attitude toward Pyongyang than his hard-line predecessor, Park Geun-hye. But the current major thorn in the side of Seoul and Beijing's friendship is the July 2016 agreement to deploy the US's THAAD system in South Korea.

    Though South Korea has promised that the system will not be used to spy on and monitor China's military bases and operations, this hasn't done much to put Beijing at ease. A China Daily editorial from December 13 pointed out that "pleasant as it will no doubt be to the ears of his hosts, [Moon's]promise not to use the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system for purposes other than preventing nuclear/missile threats from Pyongyang, will be difficult to verify in practice." The editorial ignored Moon's economic refrain and instead urged political and military engagement.

    But Moon has ambitions. "As soil hardens after the rain, I wish my state visit will help restore trust between the two countries and open a new era for the South Korea-China relationship," he said.

    Moon proposed new principles for Seoul and Beijing to cement ties.

    "First, they need to strengthen the systematic foundation of economic cooperation," the 64-year-old politician said. "This is to ensure continuity and stability in economic cooperation by institutionalizing exchange and cooperation between the two countries."

    "If the two countries have built a waterway for friendship and cooperation over the past 25 years, the next 25 years is when they must sail the ship of co-prosperity. China's prosperity helps that of South Korea, and South Korea's prosperity helps that of China. The two countries share the same fate and must prosper together," he added.

    Though Moon and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet Thursday, the two leaders will not be issuing a joint statement, the South China Morning Post reported. Instead, both presidents will make separate statements to the media.

    Following the THAAD agreement, China issued a travel ban on Chinese travel agencies booking vacations in South Korea. The ban ultimately caused Seoul to lose roughly $4.5 billion in revenue.


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    economic, North Korea, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), South Korea, China
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