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South Korea urges bigger China role on North Korea

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SEOUL: South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol called on Tuesday for China to play a "more active, constructive role" in reining in North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations, his office said, after talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The two leaders held their first face-to-face meeting, lasting 25 minutes, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 conference in Bali amid flaring tension over North Korean weapons tests.

Pyongyang has tested a record number of missiles this year, including a possible failed intercontinental ballistic missile, and fired hundreds of artillery shells into the sea more recently as South Korea and the United States staged a series of joint military drills.

Yoon expressed concern that the isolated country has escalated tension with an unprecedented pace of nuclear and missile provocations, his office said in a statement.

"I hope China will play a more active, constructive role as a member of the UN Security Council and a neighbour," Yoon was quoted as telling Xi.

Xi, in response, called for better inter-Korean relations, saying he was willing to support Yoon's aid-for-denuclearisation offer if the North accepts it, Yoon's office said.

Yoon has proposed an "audacious" economic plan if North Korea commits to denuclearisation. But Pyongyang criticised the offer as "nonsense" and said Yoon should "shut his mouth."

On the economy, Yoon and Xi agreed to speed up negotiations on the second phase of a bilateral free-trade agreement, according to Yoon's office and Chinese state media.

Beijing's state media also reported that Xi displayed hopes for greater cooperation with South Korea on areas including high-tech manufacturing.

He promised to ensure "safe, stable and smooth global supply chains" but said he opposes "politicisation of economic cooperation", the state media added.

Bilateral relations have soured in recent years amid China's protest against a U.S. missile defence system stationed in South Korea, and an intensifying rivalry between Beijing and Washington.

Yoon said he aims to foster regional and global freedom, peace and prosperity based on universal values and norms, asking Xi to support more active high-level talks to tackle complex challenges, Yoon's office said.

Xi agreed on the need to boost bilateral dialogue and build political trust, and said he would visit Seoul when his country's COVID-19 situation stabilises, it added. -- Reuters

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