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China warms to South Korea as plans for refugees surface online

By
Elizabeth Shim
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Tuesday a cooperative partnership prevails between Beijing and Seoul. Earlier on Monday Lu denied reports of refugee camp construction near North Korea. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Tuesday a cooperative partnership prevails between Beijing and Seoul. Earlier on Monday Lu denied reports of refugee camp construction near North Korea. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 12 (UPI) -- China is turning its attention to improved ties with South Korea as reports suggested Beijing is building a web of refugee camps near the North Korea border.

Beijing's foreign ministry said Tuesday it looks forward to a path of "healthy and stable" development in bilateral relations, Yonhap reported.

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"We hope both China and South Korea, based on mutual respect for core interests and major concerns, will pursue a path of healthy and stable development in relations, while promoting peace, progress and prosperity," said Lu Kang.

Lu was answering questions from reporters ahead of South Korean President Moon Jae-in's state visit to China on Wednesday.

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The spokesman described China-South Korea relations as a cooperative partnership and commended Moon for expressing a "sincere position" on the issue of THAAD, a U.S. missile defense system Beijing opposes because of its powerful surveillance capabilities.

South Korea recently reassured China with a public announcement to not add more THAAD batteries to the current deployment.

North Korea, however, has not shown signs of cooperating with Chinese requests for an end to weapons tests and Kim Jong Un may have recently snubbed a top Chinese envoy.

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The relative lack of communication between the two traditional partners is prompting speculation Beijing is building refugee camps near North Korea, to possibly prepare for a breakout of conflict, The Guardian reported Tuesday.

A document that was circulating anonymously on social media in China outlined plans for five refugee camps in Jilin Province, including in the Changbai riverside and two other facilities in the Changbai region.

The Changbai region is named after a mountain range, also known as Mount Paektu in North Korea, that straddles the China-North Korea border.

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The camps were not confirmed by Beijing on Monday.

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