BUSAN, Foreign Minister Park Jin held bilateral talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Busan on Sunday, hours before the two were set to meet trilaterally with their Japanese counterpart.
The talks came days after North Korea said it launched a military spy satellite and successfully placed it into orbit, after two botched launch attempts in May and August, respectively.
In response, South Korea scrapped part of a 2018 inter-Korean military tension reduction accord. In a tit-for-tat, North Korea said the next day it will immediately restore all military measures it had halted under the agreement.
The latest developments on the Korean Peninsula were expected to be high on the agenda at Sunday's talks between the two ministers.
China has called for all concerned parties to "remain calm and exercise restraint," over the satellite launch, saying it will continue to play "a constructive role" in promoting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
Foreign Minister Park Jin (L) shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi ahead of their bilateral talks at the Shangri-La hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, on July 14, 2023, in this file photo provided by Park's office.
The ministers were also likely to address the growing military cooperation between the North and Russia, as South Korea and the United States believe that the North received assistance from Russia in space rocket technologies in exchange for supplying weapons and munitions to Moscow for use in the war in Ukraine.
At the talks, Park could raise the issue of China's forced repatriation of North Korean defectors from its northeastern region in October.
As Pyongyang's key ally, China does not recognize North Korean defectors as refugees and regularly repatriates them to their home country, where they can face harsh punishment.
The two top diplomats were likely to discuss efforts to enhance bilateral relations, including ways to promote high-level communication and people-to-people exchanges.
Critics say the relations with Beijing have recently cooled due to what they describe as President Yoon Suk Yeol's attempts to bring South Korea closer to the U.S. and Japan, a departure from the previous Moon Jae-in administration's greater emphasis on China.
Under Yoon's foreign policy, South Korea seeks to build a "healthy and more mature" relationship with Beijing.
Wang arrived in the southeastern port city Saturday. He last visited South Korea in September 2021.
Source: Yonhap News Agency