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Editor's Desk
Print Edition> Editor's Desk
UPDATED: July 1, 2013 NO. 27 JULY 4, 2013
Let the Talks Begin

With her first state visit to China wrapping up on June 30, South Korean President Park Geun Hye appeared to have made the most of the occasion. Indeed, extensive talks produced agreements on issues ranging from trade and cultural exchanges to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, making the visit a landmark in bilateral relations.

Since they forged diplomatic ties in 1992, the two emerging economies have found a widening array of shared interests. South Korea is China's sixth largest trade partner with two-way trade amounting to $256.3 billion last year. While South Korean conglomerates Samsung and Hyundai are household names in China, an increasing number of Chinese investors and tourists have poured into South Korea. The fact that Park traveled to China with a 71-member business delegation, coupled with a pledge to sign a free trade agreement as soon as possible, testified to the two neighbors' commitment to cooperation.

Aside from bilateral ties, Park's visit caught global attention because it came at a time when tensions following North Korea's nuclear test in February have begun to ease. While softening its hard-line rhetoric, Pyongyang has recently called for talks to resolve the crisis. At this juncture, diplomatic efforts should be redoubled.

Park's visit provided an opportunity for Beijing and Seoul to solidify consensus on a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. Despite a stalemate in the past few months, China has been able to maintain communications with North Korea, South Korea and the United States, an advantage that enables the country to play a unique role in helping coordinate conflicting interests. As a neighbor enjoying close ties with both North Korea and South Korea, China will continue to serve as a peacemaker on the peninsula.

Since neither Pyongyang nor Washington has made substantive changes to their positions, doubts remain as to whether meaningful talks can materialize. Now that calls for dialogue have become the order of the day, both sides should show flexibility. They should not put the cart before the horse by setting expected outcomes as preconditions. Only by letting talks begin will they stand a chance of achieving a solution.

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