South Korea and China have agreed to put their bilateral relations back on the right track, apparently normalizing ties that have been soured over the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in South Korea, the foreign ministry said Tuesday.
"The agreement to hold the summit is the first step.to restore bilateral cooperation and exchanges in all areas to a normal path", said Nam Gwan-Pyo, Seoul's deputy director of national security.
"The two sides have emphasised the great importance of South Korea-China link and have made a decision to promote further development of their strategic relationship and cooperation", a joint statement released by the Seoul Foreign Ministry said.
China sees the installation, which Seoul and Washington say is to defend against missile threats from nuclear-armed North Korea, as a threat to its own military capabilities.
"The Korean side took note of China's position and concern regarding the THAAD issue, and made it clear that the THAAD system deployed in Korea is, pursuant to the original goal of its deployment, not directed at a third country", the ministry said. "The two agreed to engage in communication on THAAD-related issues". It said both sides attached great importance to their relationship and were willing to push forward on developing a cooperative partnership.
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Efforts have been recently to improve ties, with neither country expected to gain much from a protracted standoff over the THAAD issue.
The agreement came after South Korea and China saw their ties frayed by the THAAD controversy.
South Korea recognised China's concerns on the THAAD issue and made it clear the deployment was not aimed at any third country and did not harm China's strategic security interests, China's foreign ministry said.
South Korea's top nuclear envoy expressed hope Tuesday of having extensive discussions with his Chinese counterpart on ways to peacefully resolve the North Korea nuclear stalemate. China is North Korea's major ally and trading partner. South Korean retail and auto businesses in China suffered anti-South Korea sentiments. Earlier this month, South Korean and Chinese officials agreed to extend their currency swap deal.