By Kim Tae-gyu
President Park Geun-hye agreed with her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to cooperate in bringing peace and stability to the Korean Peninsula by persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions, Cheong Wa Dae said Wednesday.
In a 20-minute telephone call to congratulate Xi on becoming head of state, the two leaders promised to collaborate to bring Pyongyang, which continues to issue bellicose rhetoric, to the dialogue table.
This marks the first time that leaders of the two nations have had such an exchange since they established diplomatic relations in 1992.
"Park asked for Xi's support, reiterating her principle to sternly deal with any provocation by the North while making efforts to build up a rapport between the two Koreas if it makes the right decision," Cheong Wa Dae quoted Park as saying in a statement.
"In response, Xi said that he understands what Park means and pledged to put forth efforts although it is difficult to persuade North Korea … Xi promised to strengthen communication with South Korea to achieve peace, stability and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, which he said benefits not only Korea but also China."
Xi also invited Park to China in the near future.
Presidential spokeswoman Kim Haing said that Park thanked Xi for China's proactive roles in imposing stringent U.N. sanctions against North Korea early this month following its Feb. 25 nuclear test.
The belligerent regime responded by vowing to scrap the 60-year-old armistice, which ended the Korean War (1950-53), and threatened to turn Seoul and Washington into seas of fire with preemptive nuclear strikes.
Such threats worsened tension on the peninsula and Seoul has tried to encourage Beijing, a long-time benefactor of Pyongyang, to urge North Korea to give up its goal of becoming a full-fledged nuclear power.
"China instantly accepted our request during the congratulatory call. Park is included among a handful of foreign leaders to officially speak with Xi, along with U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin," Kim Haing said.
"As far as we know, Xi did not have such a phone call with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un although we have no idea whether they talked in an unofficial way."
Park and Xi, who first met in 2005 when the latter visited Korea, have maintained a friendly relationship.
After Park won the presidential election last December, Xi, then the chief of China's Communist Party, sent a congratulatory message to Korea's first female President.
They exchanged special envoys when it was established that they would both take office. Xi also dispatched a special envoy to take part in Park's inauguration ceremony on Feb. 25 and she reciprocated by making the call Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Park's spokesman Yoon Chang-jung said the National Security Office, which will control the country's security apparatus, will become fully operational on March 22 after the passage of the government reorganization bill.
Park named ex-Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo to lead the new office but could not officially set up the organization due to a National Assembly impasse over the restructuring bill.