Park says ties with China at new high

Updated: 2014-01-07 01:15

By ZHAO YANRONG (China Daily)

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ROK president calls for enhanced cooperation to ensure stability

Park says ties with China at new high

Park Geun-hye, president of the Republic of Korea, addresses journalists during her New Year news conference at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on Monday. Jung Yeon-je / Pool / REUTERS

The president of the Republic of Korea has called for the enhancement of mutual trust with China and the strengthening of the friendship between the two countries, to improve people's welfare and jointly contribute to peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

Park Geun-hye made the remarks on Monday in her New Year's news conference, which was also her first news conference since her inauguration in February 2013.

"Ties between China and the ROK are much closer than at any time in history," said Park, adding that the two countries' strategic partnership is also deepening, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The ROK president said the two countries share high-level cultural similarities, citing the shared tradition of picking a term to summarize the past year and start the coming year.

Choosing a term for 2014, people in the ROK recently voted for Zhuanmi Kaiwu, a Buddhist term meaning "walking out of the trouble and gaining enlightenment".

Park said she regards anything that harms the interests of the ROK and its people as troublesome.

Cooperation between China and the ROK achieved more regional and global significance after the two countries' leaders signed a joint statement in Beijing last summer, said Shi Yongming, an Asia-Pacific studies researcher at the China Institute of International Relations.

"The strategic partnership between China and ROK not only benefits the two countries, but also focuses on regional and global issues," Shi added.

The situation in Northeast Asia has become much more complicated, with Japan acting as a destabilizing factor in the region, while the political environment in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is unpredictable, he said.

"More significance has been attached to the strategic cooperation between China and the ROK under the current regional situation. Good bilateral relations serve as the cornerstone of stability in Northeast Asia. The two countries' cooperation will contain Japan's right-wing forces as well as controlling the unstable factors in the Korean Peninsula," Shi added.

At Monday's news conference, Park also proposed holding reunions for families separated between the ROK and the DPRK later this month, saying the ROK will bolster humanitarian assistance and exchanges with the DPRK.

Kim Jong-un, top leader of the DPRK, called for closer ties with the ROK in a televised New Year's message, promising to "make aggressive efforts to improve relations between the DPRK and the ROK".

Park welcomed Kim's speech and urged the DPRK to show its intentions through action. Park also said she is willing to meet Kim at any time.

The family reunion proposal came amid uncertainties in the DPRK following last month's execution of Jang Song-thaek, the once-powerful uncle of the DPRK's young leader. The offer was seen as part of Seoul's efforts to enhance stability on the peninsula.

"I hope that elderly members of separated families will be allowed to reunite around Lunar New Year (Jan 31) to help heal the wounds in their hearts," Park was quoted by Yonhap as saying, adding that family reunions could be a first step toward improving relations.

Shi, of the China Institute of International Relations, said Park made a very "bold" statement.

The United States insisted the denuclearization of the DPRK should be the premise of discussing further cooperation on the peninsula, Shi said.

"But more pressure on the DPRK will push the nuclear issue into a dead end," he said.

Park's statements show she would like to enhance relations first, which may provide a better environment in which to reach a solution of the nuclear issue, Shi added.

"Her ideas are likely to be challenged by the US and domestic conservatives, but her efforts mean a lot for peace and stability on the peninsula," he added.