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Xi, Park talk about tension on peninsula

By ZHANG YUNBI and ZHOU WA | China Daily | Updated: 2013-03-21 01:29

Beijing expects all parties to ease the strained situation on the Korean Peninsula and turn around tense relations, President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday in a phone call with Republic of Korea President Park Geun-hye.

Xi called for reconciliation and cooperation between the ROK and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and said China will provide "necessary assistance".

Direct and frank communication between Pyongyang and Seoul is among the top priorities if further strategic miscalculations between the neighbors is to be avoided, observers said.

Peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula is in the immediate interest of its residents as well as the Chinese people, Xi said in his first direct talk with Park since he took office last week. Park echoed Xi's sentiments, saying Seoul is ready to join denuclearization efforts on the peninsula and to work with Beijing to safeguard peace, stability and prosperity on the peninsula and in East Asia.

Wang Junsheng, an East Asian studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing is voicing support for direct dialogue between Pyongyang and Seoul.

Xi's remarks are an indication of China's responsible attitude toward the peninsula issue, and the talk also expressed Beijing's hope for more initiatives from Seoul, Wang said.

China has long been committed to denuclearization on the peninsula through dialogue and consultation, Xi said.

Huang Youfu, a professor of Korean studies at Minzu University of China, said Xi's emphasis on the Chinese people's interests and his call for direct reconciliation talks between Seoul and Pyongyang are rare.

Beijing "has taken notice of the willingness for dialogue from both Pyongyang and Seoul", and spiraling tension with increased military deployment on the peninsula is not favorable to China, Huang said.

Xi's remarks follow tension that flared in February after Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear test, prompting further sanctions by the United Nations Security Council.

Washington and Seoul began a series of joint military drills on the peninsula earlier this month.

A B-52 bomber from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam flew over the ROK on March 8 as part of a US-ROK joint military exercise dubbed "Foal Eagle", Pentagon spokesman George Little said on Monday.

Another B-52 training mission was carried out on Tuesday, Yonhap News Agency cited an ROK military official as saying.

Pyongyang is now closely watching the B-52 movements, the DPRK Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

The bomber flights are an "unpardonable provocation against the DPRK", and come at a time when the Korean Peninsula "is inching close to the brink of war", the Korean Central News Agency reported.

Wang, the CASS expert, said Washington and Seoul should avoid moves that Pyongyang may perceive as threats, including deploying nuclear weapons and B-52 bombers to the peninsula.

"Reconciliation between Seoul and Pyongyang also requires their taking initiative to signal non-antagonistic attitudes, and provocative comments and acts should be avoided," he said.

The leaders of relevant countries should "exercise the required historical responsibility and face up to the nuclear crisis of this time", said Zhang Liangui, an expert on Korean studies at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

Wednesday's phone call came right after China's new foreign minister, Wang Yi, and his ROK counterpart, Yun Byung-se, talked by telephone on Tuesday night about bilateral relations and the situation on the peninsula.

Regarding relations on the peninsula, Wang said he said he could "feel the pain inflicted by the separation of compatriots".

Wang Yi said China is willing to continue to play a constructive role in improving relations between the ROK and the DPRK to achieve peaceful unification through their own efforts.

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Xinhua and AFP contributed to this story.

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