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China's Xi says willing to help end rift with South Korea
19 May 2017, 11:25 | Darnell Patrick
Richard Drew — The Associated Press file
Xi's remarks came in a meeting Friday with South Korean special envoy Lee Hae-chan, who was dispatched to Beijing by South Korea's new president on a mission to reopen contacts and seek a way out of the current impasse, which has hit South Korean businesses hard.
The installation of the Thaad has resulted in an unofficial boycott of South Korean companies operating in China, including the supermarket chain Lotte, which had provided land in South Korea for the deployment.
China's foreign minister urged South Korea's new government on Thursday to remove "obstacles" to good relations amid Chinese anger at the U.S. deployment of an anti-missile system on the Korean peninsula.
He will meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday and has talks scheduled with President Xi Jinping and State Councilor Yang Jiechi on Friday. Restoring relations with China, which have soured since South Korea made a decision to bring in the American missile defense system THAAD, has been one of President Moon Jae-in's top priorities, and Moon selected one of his closest political aides and friends as his envoy to demonstrate his sincerity about achieving that goal.
"Your visit to China to step up the communication on important issues related to bilateral relations. shows President Moon and his administration have attached high importance to our ties", Xi said.
THAAD is aimed at guarding against threats from nuclear-armed North Korea, but China fears it will upset the regional security balance.
"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". Although he has sometimes criticized the THAAD deployment, Moon has not said he will remove it.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping called Moon last week to congratulate him on his election, Moon reportedly asked Xi for help in ending the economic retaliation that has taken a toll on South Korean businesses.
Thaad has been put into operation in the South Korean territory in case of a potential attack by North Korea, amid a recent escalation of tensions in the peninsula.
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