China expects NK economic ties to help stability on peninsula
North Korea's deepening economic reliance on China is expected to help maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula and Beijing hopes to continue to play a constructive role for Seoul and Pyongyang in improving relations through reconciliation, Beijing's ambassador to Seoul said Monday.
In a written interview with Yonhap News Agency marking the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Seoul and Beijing, Ambassador Zhang Xinsen also called for both South Korea and China to make efforts to build a relationship of mutual respect, mindful of oft-strained ties over North Korea, history issues and illegal fishing near the Yellow Sea.
"The economic cooperation between North Korea and China not only helps develop North Korea's economy but also helps with peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," Zhang said.
"It is China's long-standing stance that dialogue and negotiation are the only and right way to resolve relevant issues on the Korean Peninsula and achieve lasting peace."
Zhang made the remarks days after Chinese President Hu Jintao met the powerful uncle of North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un last week in Beijing, in a display of support for the North's new leadership.
Jang Song-thaek, the husband of a sister of the North's late long-time ruler Kim Jong-il and vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission, wrapped up a six-day visit to China on Saturday, where he held talks on bilateral development projects for two special economic zones in North Korea.
The visit by Jang was the highest-level diplomatic exchange since the new leader took the helm of North Korea after his father Kim Jong-il died in December.
China has served the lifeline for the impoverished North as it struggles with international sanctions. The new leader Kim, who is believed to be in his late 20s, appears to have solidified his grip on power but concerns persist over the regime's stability.
Zhang stressed that the tightening economic cooperation between Beijing and Pyongyang has been "met with common interests for relevant nations" on the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea and China watched bilateral trade skyrocket to US$220.6 billion last year from a meager $5 billion in 1992.
The bilateral relationship was elevated to a "strategic and cooperative partnership" in 2008 from a "comprehensive and cooperative" one after summit talks between President Lee Myung-bak and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao.
The relationship was tested last month after a high-profile South Korean activist, Kim Young-hwan, claimed that he was tortured by Chinese agents during his 114 days of detention in China for helping North Korean defectors there.
South Korea has called for China to come clean on the torture allegation, but Beijing flatly denied the claim.
Without mentioning the torture allegation, Zhang said if South Korea and China "maintain a relationship of mutual respect and prosperity, the two nations could remove obstacles and push for a healthy and stable relationship."
Zhang painted a brighter future for the relationship with Korea.
"Building upon the friendly relations that the two nations have fostered, I strongly believe that both nations will continually make efforts to have a mature relationship and more beautiful future," the ambassador said. (Yonhap)