SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – South Korean and Chinese foreign ministers met Wednesday in talks expected to focus on North Korea and other regional security, two days after North Korea tested a new nuclear weapon.
North Korea said on Monday it had successfully tested two guns over the weekend which it said had hit 1,500 kilometers (930 miles), which is enough to hit all of Japan including US troops there. This was North Korea’s first nuclear weapon in six months and it came amidst turmoil in its nuclear talks with the United States.
On Wednesday, South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong is expected to call on China to take action to persuade North Korea to return to the nuclear talks at a summit with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Seoul.
While there are questions about China’s performance in North Korea, Beijing is still North Korea’s last partner and supporter. More than 90% of North Korea’s trade flows through China, although much of the two trade exports have not occurred since North Korea closed its global borders early last year at the start of the coronavirus epidemic.
In a statement Wednesday, Wang said some observers also wanted to strengthen their ties with South Korea in an effort to prevent it from gaining ground in the United States amid growing economic tensions. He said China was concerned about the US plan to reconsider its foreign policy on the China-Russia crisis after the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
South Korea has struggled to distinguish between the United States and China. It is a key US ally where about 28,500 American troops have been deployed to end North Korea’s atrocities. But its export-oriented economy depends on China, which sells the most.
The disarmament of North Korea does not violate the UN Security Council’s decision to ban North Korea from conducting missile tests. Some analysts suggest that North Korea may have chosen a submarine, not a missile, to keep its Chinese counterpart, a member of the UN Security Council, at risk.
Experts say North Korea is seeking help from China as its recession-stricken economy has been disrupted by the epidemic, US-imposed sanctions and natural disasters.
Wang has also visited Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam.