BEIJING: War must not be allowed to break out on the Korean peninsula and the issue must be resolved through talks, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Thursday (Dec 14).
Xi made his comments to visiting South Korean President Moon Jae-in just days after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered to begin direct talks with North Korea without pre-conditions.
But the White House said on Wednesday that no negotiations could be held with North Korea until it improved its behaviour. The White House has declined to say whether President Donald Trump, who has taken a tougher rhetorical line toward North Korea, approved Tillerson's overture.
While South Korea and China share the goal of getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and stop testing increasingly sophisticated long-range missiles, the two have not seen eye-to-eye on how to achieve this.
Meeting in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Xi told Moon that the goal of denuclearising the Korean peninsula must be stuck to, and that war and chaos cannot be allowed to happen, state media said.
"The peninsula issue must in the end be resolved via dialogue and consultation," Xi was cited as saying.
China and South Korea have an important shared interest in maintaining peace and stability, and China is willing to work with South Korea to prevent war and promote talks, Xi added.
China would support North and South Korea to improve relations as this was good for easing tension, he said.
NEW START TO SOUTH KOREA-CHINA RELATIONS
Xi's warm tone followed nearly a year of tense relations between the two countries.
Relations between Beijing and Seoul have been icy since South Korea allowed the United States to install the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system to guard against threats from North Korea.
China considers THAAD a threat to its own security, and has imposed economic measures against South Korean companies in a move seen as retaliation.
During their meeting, Xi and Moon signalled their willingness to improve relations.
Xi said Moon's first state visit to Beijing was an "important opportunity to improve relations as we seek to find ways to carve a better path based on mutual respect and trust."
The Chinese President said he was willing to "step up" communication and coordination with Moon, stating that "we shall deepen the connection and accurately navigate the bilateral relationship."
He added the two countries could also support each other and increase cooperation as they prepared for their respective Winter Olympic games, to be hosted in Pyeongchang next year and in Beijing in 2022.
Moon praised Xi, calling him a "very sincere and reliable leader in terms of both words and behaviour".
China and South Korea were "partners set by destiny to walk the path of mutual prosperity and cooperate for world peace", he said, while acknowledging the recent "temporary difficulties".