By Sunny Lee, Kim Young-jin
BEIJING — Xi Jinping, China's Communist Party chief, said Wednesday he opposes the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea, according to an envoy dispatched by President-elect Park Geun-hye.
Xi made the remark in a meeting with a special delegation headed by Park confidant Kim Moo-sung, during which the sides set the tone for closer bilateral ties once Park takes power on Feb. 25.
"Xi said the North's nuclear program was intolerable," Yonhap News quoted Kim as saying. Kim added that Xi, the incoming Chinese President, supported Park's plan to provide humanitarian aid and open a window for dialogue with the impoverished state.
The delegation delivered a personal letter from Park to Xi, which called for a deepened bilateral partnership as well as Beijing's support for Park's initiative of thawing inter-Korean tension through trust-building measures.
China's state-controlled media highlighted the Korean delegation's visit, including the fact that Korea sent the envoys to China, scrapping its previous unspoken practice of first sending envoys to the United States, Seoul's traditional ally.
The meeting took place amid the U.N. Security Council's decision to slap a tough resolution against Pyongyang a day before, condemning its December rocket launch and expanding sanctions. China backed the move.
Beijing has long been seen as "shielding" Pyongyang from international criticism for the latter's various provocative acts. Its support for the resolution represented a significant diplomatic blow to the North.
Experts expect the meeting between Park's delegation with Xi to ramp up coordination between Seoul and Beijing in their efforts to dampen Pyongyang's nuclear ambition and help it to integrate with the international community.
Earlier this month, China sent Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun to Seoul as Xi's envoy to meet with Park.
Diplomatic sources told The Korea Times that during the brisk bilateral visits, China showed a keen interest in making concrete steps that would eventually lead to a free trade agreement pact between the two countries.
During its stay in China, Park's delegation also met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and State Councilor Dai Bingguo, who coordinates China's diplomacy. They also met with Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department, which is the primary organ at the Communist Party that handles North Korean affairs, as well as Chen Zhili, a top female politician, who serves as a vice chairman of the standing committee of the National People's Congress.
To accommodate the wide-ranging meetings with various ranking figures in China's politics, the Korean delegation extended their stay in China one more day from the originally scheduled three-day visit.
Korea-China ties, which analysts say dropped to its lowest point during the Lee Myung-bak administration for his over-emphasis on the alliance with the United States, are expected to pick up following the visit by the delegation.
"It's a general consensus here in China that Korea-China ties under Park will improve," said Jin Jingyi, an expert on Korean affairs at Peking University. Jin was the person who briefed Park's delegation at the Korean embassy in Beijing this week on how China sees its relations with Korea.
"Park Geun-hye is seen in China as someone who understands the country well," said Jin.