News reports in South Korea indicate signs of a continuing thaw in China-South Korea relations following the 19th Communist Party Congress in Beijing that ended on Tuesday.
The CPC event cemented President Xi Jinping into a second five-year term. Many analysts believe this gives the Chinese leader more latitude in resolving earlier friction in bilateral ties amid a nuclear crisis involving North Korea.
Chosunilbo is reporting that Chinese and South Korean negotiators are working informally to defuse the acrimony that erupted when Seoul allowed the deployment earlier this year of a US Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) antimissile system.
The big South Korean newspaper quotes a government source as saying the two sides are discussing preparing a joint statement on THAAD to be announced at the APEC meeting next month.
The news follows a report in the Korea Times earlier this week speculating that Xi and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will hold a summit within the year amid mutual concerns over North Korea.
One diplomatic source was quoted as saying, “Korea had hoped to hold a summit first and then come up with a joint statement including efforts to resolve the THAAD issue, but the Chinese side is adamant something should be done about the issue before a summit, suggesting that Seoul either withdraw the THAAD system or admit that it infringes on China’s key interests.”
Moon also reportedly sent his congratulations to Xi on Wednesday after the Chinese president was re-elected as the chief of China’s communist party.
Chosunilbo, in another story, noted that some Chinese travel agencies are selling cheap package tours to South Korea again after the practice was suspended over the THAAD issue.
Beijing had slapped an unofficial boycott on Korean goods and services last spring in the wake of the antimissile system controversy. Such so-called “zero-dollar” tours have been a windfall for firms involved in South Korea’s tourism industry.