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    Xi open to mending fences with Seoul

    But Beijing warns ROK leader that THAAD could be a stumbling block

    President Xi Jinping said on Thursday that he is ready to make concerted efforts with President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea to properly address the differences between the two countries.

    Xi made the remark as he and Moon exchanged congratulatory messages on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations.

    Seoul’s ties with Beijing have been frustrated the past year over the deployment of the US Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense antimissile system in the ROK.

    The exchange of messages was made “as routine”, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday, adding Seoul should have a look back at the lessons of the past 25 years.

    She said it is hoped that Seoul will “face squarely China’s major concerns and take constructive actions to properly tackle the relevant sensitive issue”.

    China’s position opposing the deployment of the missile system is “very clear, firm and consistent” and “there is not any change” to it, she said.

    According to a release from the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Moon took note in his message to Xi of the “significant development” in bilateral relations since 1992.

    Moon said the development is the result of the governments and peoples of the two countries regarding their efforts to enhance mutual understanding and trust.

    Qiu Guohong, Chinese ambassador to the ROK, told a public diplomacy forum this month that the THAAD issue has been the “largest disturbance” facing the two countries since the forge of ties.

    Chen Zhu, vice-chairman of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, said at a celebration of the anniversary in Beijing on Wednesday that China is willing to work with the ROK to stay true to their original aspirations, reinforce mutual trust, properly handle disagreements and push the ties back on the track of steady and healthy development.

    Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, warned that Seoul should “have a clear understanding” of the greater damage of ties if it fails to meet Beijing halfway on the THAAD issue.

    The bilateral strategic partnership was built on trust with long-term efforts and the partnership is being undermined by Seoul’s irresponsible moves on the THAAD issue, Ruan said.

    Jiang Yuechun, a researcher on world economy and East Asia affairs at the CIIS, said the THAAD issue has affected the tourism, automobile and cosmetics businesses in the ROK.