SEOUL — Defense ministers of South Korea and China will hold a meeting in Beijing in February, a report said Sunday, amid high military tension following North Korea’s deadly attack on a border island. Kim Kwan-Jin and his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie will discuss regional security issues including the North’s military provocations, Yonhap news agency reported, quoting a defense ministry official. “The two will largely discuss how to further revitalize military cooperation between the two countries, but they will also discuss regional security issues like the North’s attack on the Cheonan warship and bombing on Yeonpyeong island,” Yonhap quoted the official as saying. The official was referring to the sinking of a South Korean warship and deaths of 46 sailors in March which Seoul has blamed on the North and the deadly shelling of a frontier island that left four South Koreans — including two civilians — dead in November. Seoul’s defense ministry declined to comment. Kim took office earlier this month after his predecessor Kim Tae-Young quit to take responsibility for the military’s perceived feeble response to the shelling. Pyongyang said it was retaliating for a South Korean firing drill that dropped shells into waters that it claims are North Korean territory. The bombardment, the first attack on a civilian area since the 1950-1953 Korean War, sparked a regional crisis, prompting a flurry of diplomatic attempts in the region and Washington to defuse tension. China, the North’s major ally and economic lifeblood, has faced mounting pressure to step up efforts to restrain its unruly ally. Beijing’s refusal to directly criticize Pyongyang for the attack drew angry comments from South Korean media and prompted several protests by activists.
Kim, during the talks, will likely urge his Chinese counterpart to work harder to curb Pyongyang’s belligerence, Yonhap reported.
The South, in a show of force against the North, has also staged a series of military drills, including a massive joint exercise with the U.S. on the Yellow Sea despite nearby China’s discomfort.