China's Xi says willing to help end rift with South Korea

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China's President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with South Korea's special envoy Lee Hae-chan (unseen) at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, Wednesday, May 19, 2017.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has met with a special envoy sent by new South Korean President Moon Jae-in as the two countries attempt to fix relations damaged by China's strong objections to the deployment of a high-tech American missile defense system in South Korea meant to guard against North Korean threats.

China "is committed to resolving any issues through dialogue and coordination, which is in the fundamental interests of both countries and the region", Xi was quoted as saying by China's official Xinhua News Agency.

Greeting South Korean presidential envoy Lee Hae-Chan in Beijing, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said bilateral relations have made huge progress over the years.

Ties between Seoul and Beijing soured before Moon's election over the deployment of THAAD, which is aimed at guarding against threats from nuclear-armed North Korea.

Lee earlier said Moon had sent him to China to keep communications open "at a critical time".

Moon, who took office on Wednesday, favors engagement with the North - whose key diplomatic backer is China - to bring it to the negotiating table over its nuclear and missile ambitions.

Moon's spokesman, Yoon Young, said last week that the special delegation to Beijing would "exclusively discuss the THAAD and the North's nuclear issues". North Korea conducted its latest ballistic missile test on Sunday in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, saying it was a test of its capability to carry a "large-size heavy nuclear warhead".

Relations between Beijing and Seoul, strained by disagreement over South Korea's hosting of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system, have taken on a more conciliatory tone with the election earlier this month of President Moon Jae-in.

On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Lee that Seoul must "remove the obstacles that have been placed on the road to good relations between our two countries".

Beijing has maintained its hard line, and in an editorial Thursday, the Communist Party newspaper Global Times said China's opposition "cannot be traded for the new government's friendly posture toward China".

In a separate meeting with Lee on Friday, China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi said China "hopes that South Korea can respect China's major concerns [and] appropriately resolve the THAAD issue", Xinhua reported.

Xi told Moon's representative Lee Hae-chan on Friday that his visit showed the importance the new South Korean leader attached to relations with Beijing.