June 05, 2013 11:07
The military chiefs of South Korea and China in a meeting in Beijing on Tuesday agreed to expand strategic cooperation to persuade North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons and ensure peace on the Korean Peninsula.
The meeting between Gen. Jung Seung-jo, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his Chinese counterpart Gen. Fang Fenghui laid the groundwork for closer military ties.
President Park Geun-hye is to visit to China later this month.
It was the sixth meeting between the military chiefs of the two countries. The last was in 2007.
The JCS here in a press release said the two sides agreed to "deepen bilateral ties in accordance with the South Korea-China strategic cooperative partnership."
The leaders of the two countries agreed to form the partnership during a summit in 2008, but military relations are still tentative. The latest agreement is "an upgrade" on that score, a military source here said. "Stronger strategic military cooperation between the two countries should help deter provocations by North Korea."
The two military chiefs also agreed to maintain regular contact by telephone. South Korea and China agreed to open a military hotline back in 2011, and the system is apparently expected to be set up this year.
It will enable them to consult and discuss a joint response in case of a provocation by North Korea. The navies and air forces of the two countries have been operating a military hotline since 2008.
"The latest military talks played an important role in confidence-building between the militaries of both sides and laid the groundwork for cooperation in any circumstances," Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.
Seoul and Beijing also plan to resume regular consultative meetings at the major general level, which were halted in 2001. They will focus on joint deployments of troops to the Gulf of Aden to protect merchant vessels against Somali pirates and participation in UN peacekeeping operations.
The two sides will also discuss sending military representatives to anti-terrorism and weapons drills held by each side.
The next meeting between the military chiefs will be held in Seoul but a date has not been set yet. The last time the chairman of China’s JCS visited Seoul was in 2009.
The meeting between Jung and Fang took more than an hour and a half, much longer than the expected 30 minutes.
Jung apparently pointed out that North Korea is launching long-range missiles and testing nuclear weapons while refusing to talk with South Korea. He vowed to deal "sternly" with any North Korean aggression and urged China to exercise its "influence" on the North.
Jung flew to Beijing aboard a C-130 transport aircraft, the first time that a South Korean officer traveled to China aboard a military aircraft.
Even North Korean senior apparatchik Choe Ryong-hae, who went to Beijing last month as a special envoy of the North’s leader, went by commercial airliner.
"It is a sensitive issue for a high-ranking military officer to travel to another country aboard a military aircraft," a JCS official here said. "That's possible only when there is trust between the two sides. The move should have a psychological impact on North Korea."
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com