SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea and China on Tuesday agreed to end a dispute over the deployment of an advanced American missile defense system in the South and to restore their economic and other ties.
The agreement, unveiled following low-key negotiations involving Chinese and South Korean officials, removed a major obstacle in relations between Seoul and Beijing, one that has complicated international efforts to tame North Korea 's nuclear weapons ambitions.
For years, China has vehemently protested the United States' plan to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, system in South Korea , fearing it would undercut its own national security. After the United States and South Korea pressed ahead with the deployment in Seongju, 135 miles southeast of Seoul, the capital, in April, Chinese customers boycotted South Korean cars, movies and television dramas, as well as South Korean-run supermarkets.
"Both sides shared the view that the strengthening of exchange and cooperation between Korea and China serves their common interests and agreed to expeditiously bring exchange and cooperation in all areas back on a normal development track," said a statement from the South Korean Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry also issued a similar statement announcing the agreement on Tuesday.
For months, Seoul and Beijing appeared to have been deadlocked over their dispute over Thaad. China has insisted that South Korea remove the system, saying it could not tolerate its powerful radar on its door step. But South Korea said the Thaad system was essential to defending itself and American troops in South Korea from the growing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, and called the matter nonnegotiable as long as those threats did not subside.
The breakthrough came only days after President Xi Jinping of China emerged triumphant from the Communist Party congress this month, more confident than ever in his hold on power and in the pursuit of his foreign policy. The inauguration of Moon Jae-in , a liberal president of South Korea who has stressed the importance of relations with China, his country's biggest trading partner, in May has also helped thaw relations.
In a separate statement, Mr. Moon's office said he would hold a summit meeting with Mr. Xi on the sidelines of a summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries in Vietnam on Nov. 10-11.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha of South Korea first hinted at a possible breakthrough on Monday, when she said that despite the Thaad deployment, South Korea had no intention of joining the United States' efforts to build a regionwide missile-defense system aimed at countering China's expansion of its military capabilities. Ms. Kang also said South Korea would not accept any additional Thaad batteries.
She also reiterated that South Korea would not enter any trilateral military alliance with the United States and Japan, something that Mr. Xi raised concerns about when he met Mr. Moon in July. The United States remains South Korea's most important military ally.
At Washington's urging, South Korea and Japan have been expanding their military cooperation to better deal with North Korea's missile threats. But South Korea has repeatedly stressed that it had no intention of entering a military alliance with Japan, its former colonial master, and has been wary of Japan's ambitions, under its nationalist prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to increase its military profile in the region.
Underscoring the continuing threat from North Korea's nuclear program, the head of South Korea's weather agency said on Monday that another powerful blast at the North's underground test site could destabilize the area and send radioactive material into the atmosphere.
"Should another nuclear test take place, there is that possibility," Nam Jae-cheol, director of the Korea Meteorological Administration, told lawmakers inquiring about the potential for radioactive fallout.
North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests since 2006, all of them in tunnels buried deep under Mount Mantap in Punggye-ri, in North Hamgyong Province.
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