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S. Korea, China hold first strategic military talks

South Korea and China met to discuss regional security and defence exchanges even as uneasy ties with N. Korea complicate cooperation between the neighbours

AFP , Wednesday 27 Jul 2011
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South Korea and China held their first strategic military talks Wednesday, covering defence exchanges and regional security issues including North Korea, officials said.

The meeting followed talks between the two countries' defence ministers on 15 July in Beijing, amid chilly relations between China's ally North Korea and its southern neighbour.

Vice defence minister Lee Yong-Gul led the South's delegation while China was headed by Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of general staff.

In his opening remarks, Lee said the forum would contribute to peace and stability on the peninsula and in Northeast Asia, according to the South's defence ministry.

Ma described South Korea and China as "neighbours and important nations" in Northeast Asia and called for bilateral defence exchanges, it said.

Yonhap news agency said the agenda also included co-operation in fighting piracy off Somalia. South Korean officials said details would be released on Thursday.

The strategic meeting comes as ties between the two Koreas are at their lowest ebb in almost a decade.

The South accused the North of torpedoing one of its warships with the loss of 46 lives in March 2010. The North denied the charge but last November shelled a frontline island, killing four South Koreans.

China, the North's sole major ally and its economic lifeline, sparked irritation in Seoul by failing to blame Pyongyang categorically for the attacks.

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