A senior foreign policy adviser to Chinese President Xi stressed the importance of relations with South Korea on Friday as the two countries attempt to mend a rift in ties over the deployment of a US missile-defense system to guard against North Korean threats.
"Your visit to China to step up the communication on important issues related to bilateral relations... shows President Moon and his administration have attached high importance to our ties", Xi said.
South Korea's special envoy Lee Hae-chan, left, meets China's President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, Friday, May 19, 2017.
Lee also delivered Moon's letter, expressing his gratitude for last week's phone call and congratulations on the president's inauguration.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who officially assumed office on May 10, has repeatedly criticized the previous government under impeached leader Park Geun-hye for agreeing to host the THAAD system without seeking parliamentary approval.
The installation of the Thaad has resulted in an unofficial boycott of South Korean companies operating in China, including the supermarket chain Lotte, which had provided land in South Korea for the deployment.
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"China highly regards relations with South Korea as does South Korea", Xi was quoted as saying.
South Korea has complained that some of its companies doing business in China have faced discrimination in retaliation for the THAAD deployment.
China says its influence has been exaggerated and has called on South Korea and the U.S.to end large-scale wargames seen as threatening by North Korea in exchange for the North suspending its missile launches and nuclear tests.
The United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea to guard against the North Korean threat, has called on China to do more to rein in its ally and neighbour. At a national security meeting on Sunday, Moon said dialogue is possible only in case of North Korea changing its attitude.
The sides tentatively agreed to arrange the face-to-face talks between Moon and Xi on the sidelines of the Group of 20 conference in July in Hamburg, Germany.