Park, Xi Affirm Commitment to Nuclear-Free N.Korea

President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday confirmed their strong opposition to North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The two leaders described bilateral ties as having reached an "unprecedented level of strategic understanding" and vowed to bolster cooperation in security, politics, the economy and culture.

In a joint statement they pledged cooperation in promoting development in their respective countries and ensuring peace in Northeast Asia.

"Our two leaders share the view that we must realize North Korea's denuclearization and resolutely oppose another nuclear test," Park told reporters after their meeting. Xi's visit "will serve as a clear message for denuclearization of North Korea."

Xi said, "Relevant nations should steadily pursue the six-party process and hold bilateral and multilateral talks to coordinate and resolve mutual concerns." The comments were seen as a call to North Korea to return to the negotiating table without attaching any conditions.

Xi added that Beijing supports improved inter-Korean relations and ultimately peace on the Korean Peninsula.

President Park Geun-hye shakes hands with her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at a joint press conference at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Thursday. /Newsis President Park Geun-hye shakes hands with her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at a joint press conference at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Thursday. /Newsis

The two presidents' joint statement made no mention of Japan's attempts to whitewash its World War II atrocities, apparently in order to prevent creating diplomatic friction with Tokyo.

They also discussed promoting bilateral trade. Xi said the two countries will accelerate talks to create a bilateral free trade agreement by year-end.

South Korea and China, its biggest trading partner, began FTA talks in 2012 and are set to hold their 12th round of talks in July.

Park and Xi also signed a memorandum of understanding to establish direct won-yuan exchange, which would eliminate the need to exchange either currency into U.S. dollars when settling accounts.

Bilateral trade amounted to US$230 billion last year, and most settlements were done in dollars. In future the Seoul branch of a Chinese bank will serve as the clearing house for financial settlements.

China also plans to grant Korea the Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (RQFII) status, which allows unprecedented access to China’s onshore equity and fixed income securities markets. Korea's RFQII investment ceiling will be set at 80 billion yuan.

Park accepted Xi's invitation to visit Beijing again in the future.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jul. 04, 2014 09:24 KST