President Park Geun-hye, who visited the Netherlands for the Nuclear Security Summit, met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to talk over the conclusion of the Korea-China FTA within this year. Experts say that her emphasis on the issue reflects her strong will to create a new growth engine for the Korean economy in China’s market of 1.3 billion potential customers. In addition, the two presidents reconfirmed their consensus on the denuclearization of North Korea, promising to work more closely together and to not tolerate nuclear weapons in the North.
At present, Korea and China are in the second round of FTA negotiations surrounding the scope of sensitive items and the degree of tariff cuts. President Park, during her meeting, suggested that the talks be wrapped up so that the deal can be signed before the end of this year. “I believe that an early conclusion of the free trade deal will contribute to the national interests of both countries,” said her Chinese counterpart.
The Korean government is trying to become a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is led by the United States and Japan. At the same time, it is planning to expand its economic territory by means of the Korea-China FTA.
It is said that the Korea-China summit meeting has much to do with the three-party talks among Korea, Japan, and the U.S. scheduled for March 25. “It seems that Korea met with China in advance in order to alleviate the concerns China could possibly have in the wake of Korea’s trilateral talks with the U.S. and Japan, both of which are wary of the military expansion of China,” said a diplomatic source.
A remarkable outcome of the summit meeting is that Korea and China addressed their difference of opinion on the six-party talks for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Recently, South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. claimed that there would be no six-party talks until the North takes specific actions, while China was for the resumption of the talks. However, South Korea and China have succeeded in narrowing their gap at this time.
“Although the representatives of the six parties have made little progress so far, I believe that we will be able to seek various measures for the resumption of the round table if conditions permit, that is, if any progress can be ensured for the denuclearization and the nuclear capacity of the North can be contained,” said President Park.
This is quite different from South Korea’s passive stance until the recent past. President Xi answered by saying, “China is opposed to North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons and is trying to dissuade the North, in its own way, though there are some differing opinions between China and North Korea as to the issue.” It is said that “its own way” refers to denuclearization in return for economic support.