The leaders of South Korea and China said Monday that they look forward to improved ties following a protracted disagreement over the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system that Beijing considers a threat.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in told Chinese leader Xi Jinping that while the sides may have felt "disappointed toward each other for a while," their shared culture and history prevented them from becoming completely estranged.
"It is hoped that South Korea's dream becomes helpful for China as China's dream becomes an opportunity for South Korea," Moon said in opening remarks before reporters were ushered from the room.
In his opening comments at the meeting at the Great Hall of the People in the center of Beijing, Xi described bilateral ties as "a substantial relationship in the world and an influential relationship among world nations."
Ties between the Northeast Asian neighbors nosedived in 2017 after Seoul accepted the placement of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system in southern South Korea. Beijing insists its real purpose is to use its powerful radars to peer deep into its territory, rather than to warn of North Korean missile launches and shoot them down.
A furious China launched an unofficial boycott of everything from Chinese tour group visits to South Korea to South Korean television shows, boy bands and other cultural products. Major South Korean retailer Lotte, which provided a golf course where the missile system was deployed, was singled out for especially harsh treatment and its China business operations were essentially destroyed. Even sales of ubiquitous South Korean auto brands such as Hyundai and Kia plunged for months.
Ultimately, Beijing was unable to force South Korea to remove the system and its fury appears to have subsided somewhat amid its trade war with the U.S. and tensions elsewhere in Asia. South Korea now hopes to have Xi visit next year and is also eager to have Beijing use its influence with North Korea to give a jolt to deadlocked denuclearization talks.
While South Korea appreciates the part China has played in that effort, the "current recent situations in which the talks between the United States and North Korea are stalled and tensions on the Korean Peninsula have become heightened are certainly not favorable, not only for South Korea and China but also for North Korea," Moon said in his opening comments.
"I hope that we continue to closely cooperate so that the opportunities we have gained with difficulty can come to fruition," he said.
North Korea has set a year-end deadline for the U.S. to make concessions in the nuclear talks, without apparently making any offers of its own. The U.S. says it won't accept that demand and has called on North Korea to return to negotiations. While China is North Korea's most important diplomatic ally and chief source of investment and economic assistance, its ability to force Kim Jong Un's regime to alter policy is believed to be limited.
Along with meeting Xi, Moon is to take part Tuesday in a trilateral summit in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
Xi met with Abe on Monday afternoon in Beijing, saying the two are "jointly opening a new future for relations between the two countries."
"At present Sino-Japan relations are facing an important development opportunity," Xi said.
Ties between the longtime rivals have improved remarkably in recent years, despite lingering resentments over Japan's invasion and occupation of much of China last century and its continuing control of East China Sea islands claimed by Beijing.
Japan is also wary about China's rapid military expansion, and there has been a public uproar over the detention of more than a dozen Japanese citizens on spying allegations in China. Chinese naval and coast guard ships routinely violate Japanese-claimed waters around the disputed islands.
The Italian city of Venice is facing more intense floods on Monday while still recovering from the exceptional high tide that hit it in November, causing massive damage.
The tide peaked at 1.44 meters on Monday morning, lower than forecasters' predictions of 1.50 meters. High tides are considered exceptional if they are above 1.40 meters.
The lagoon city is still counting the damage caused by the 1.87-meter-high tide on Nov. 12, the highest in more than 50 years.
The city mayor said total damages are estimated at around 1 billion euros, with houses, businesses and historic monuments severely hit.
"I've been living here for more than 50 years and never saw anything like that," said Toto Bergamo Rossi, director of the cultural foundation Venetian Heritage. "It's more than a month now, this is a prolonged emergency."
Venetian hoteliers recently said they are facing a steep rise in the number of reservation canceled following the November flooding and called for correct information to be issued on the situation of the city, which restarted its businesses and activities immediately after the exceptional floods.
Libya's forces based in the country's east said Monday they have released a vessel with Turkish crew members seized over the weekend amid heightened tensions in the eastern Mediterranean over a contentious maritime border deal involving Tripoli and Ankara.
Ahmed al-Mosmari, a spokesman for the self-styled Libyan National Army, said they found no weapons on the vessel flying a Grenada flag, which was carrying a shipment of flour from Malta to the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria.
The vessel was seized "because it entered Libya's territorial waters without prior permission," the spokesman said.
The LNA, led by commander Khalifa Hifter, seized the vessel on Saturday and took it into a Libyan port under its control for inspection.
The vessel's seizure came amid tensions between the LNA and Turkey, which backs Libya's U.N.-supported government based in the country's capital of Tripoli. Since April, Hifter's forces have led an offensive against the U.N.-supported government, trying to capture Tripoli from the militias defending it.
Turkey and the Tripoli-based government signed maritime and security agreements last month, drawing international outrage and concern from several Mediterranean countries.
The deals, which were approved by the Turkish parliament on Saturday, allow Ankara to provide military training and equipment at Tripoli's request. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also said Turkey could send troops to Libya if the Tripoli government formally asked for their deployment.
Separately, EU spokesman Peter Stano cautioned Monday that "there is no military solution to the crisis in Libya," and called on all parties to cease their military actions.
Meanwhile, Hifter's forces late on Sunday extended a three-day deadline they gave militias fighting to defend Tripoli against the LNA offensive. The LNA is demanding the militias pull out of both Tripoli and the coastal city of Sirte. The new deadline ends on Wednesday.
The fighting around Tripoli escalated in recent weeks after Hifter declared a "final" and decisive battle for the capital. Hifter is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, while the Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.
The offensive threatens to plunge Libya into another bout of violence, the scale of the 2011 conflict that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
The Russian government has vowed to retaliate against U.S. sanctions on a new Russia-Germany pipeline, work on which was suspended on Saturday.
U.S. President Donald Trump signed legislation last week that provides for sanctions against individuals and companies involved with the vessels laying the Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.
The move prompted a Swiss company that operates ships laying sections of the pipeline to suspend the work.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that Moscow will take measures of "reciprocity" over the sanctions, which Russia considers unacceptable.
"How and when it will be done remains a question of Russia's national interests," Peskov told reporters on Monday, adding that the Kremlin still hopes to complete Nord Stream 2.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated the sentiment, saying that Russia would respond to "these absolutely unacceptable, blunt actions that violate all norms of international law and diplomatic and human decency" after some "cool-headed analysis" of the situation.
Later on Monday the country's prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, said he tasked the cabinet with looking into "possible restrictions" that could be imposed on the U.S. in retaliation for the sanctions.
The U.S. has been an outspoken opponent of the pipeline, which will allow Russia to transport natural gas about 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) directly to Europe, bypassing Ukraine. Along with eastern European countries that also oppose the project, the U.S. government argues that it will increase Europe's dependence on Russia for energy.
Nord Stream 2 is owned by Russia's Gazprom, with investment from several European companies.
The German government said it regretted the enactment of the U.S. legislation and considered the sanctions an interference in the country's domestic affairs. However, Chancellor Angela Merkel made it clear last week that Germany isn't considering retaliation against the sanctions and said that there is "no alternative to conducting talks."
Rising space power China on Monday attacked the newly created U.S. Space Force as a "direct threat to outer space peace and security."
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters that China is "deeply concerned about it and resolutely opposed to it."
"The relevant U.S. actions are a serious violation of the international consensus on the peaceful use of outer space, undermine global strategic balance and stability, and pose a direct threat to outer space peace and security," Geng said at a regular briefing.
China's space program has advanced rapidly since its first crewed mission in 2003. In a report last February, the Pentagon asserted that China and Russia have embarked on major efforts to develop technologies that could allow them to disrupt or destroy American and allied satellites in a crisis or conflict.
China in 2007 conducted an unannounced missile strike against one of its own defunct satellites, creating an enormous amount of space debris.
Geng dismissed such concerns, calling them "unfounded counter charges" that merely provided the U.S. with a justification for its own actions. China, he said, has consistently opposed the weaponization of space and believes international treaties on arms control in outer space need to be negotiated.
"We hope that the international community, especially the major powers concerned, will adopt a cautious and responsible attitude to prevent outer space from becoming a new battlefield and work together to maintain lasting peace and tranquility in outer space," he said.
The establishment of the Space Force is seen by the U.S. military as a recognition of the need to more effectively organize for the defense of U.S. interests in space — especially satellites used for navigation and communication. The Space Force is not designed or intended to put combat troops in space.
Space has "evolved into a war-fighting domain of its own," Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters Friday.
Space has become increasingly important to the U.S. economy and to everyday life. The Global Positioning System, for example, provides navigation services to the military as well as civilians. Its constellation of about two dozen orbiting satellites is operated by the 50th Space Wing from an operations center at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.
China has established a similar, independent network, the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, assembled from 42 separate satellite launches.