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By Chang Jae-soon
BEIJING, June 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye delivered a friendship address at the alma mater of Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday, calling for the two neighbors to build relations of "trust" based on the big strides they have made in just 20 years of diplomatic ties.
Park began the 20-minute speech before students and faculty members at Tsinghua University in Beijing with about five minutes of greetings and opening remarks in the Chinese language, including an ancient Chinese maxim about the importance of education.
Officials said Park studied Chinese by herself and has a relatively good command of the language.
"Only about 20 years have passed since South Korea and China established diplomatic relations in 1992, but friendship and cooperation developed at a pace nearly unprecedented in the world," Park said, offering a series of figures showing the rapid increases in economic and other exchanges between the two sides.
"I believe that Korea-China relations should now move forward into a more mature and substantial partnership ... I intend to pursue dialogue and cooperation in a more forward-moving way based on the deep trust forged with President Xi through the summit," she said.
"Beyond the successful Korea-China relations over the past 20 years, I intend to begin a journey of trust that opens up new 20 years," she said, adding that a joint communique the two sides adopted at the summit is a "blueprint and roadmap" for her efforts.
Since opening diplomatic ties, China has overtaken the United States as South Korea's No. 1 trade partner and other exchanges flourished. But their political and security relations have not moved forward to match their economic ties, due largely to disagreements over how to handle North Korea.
Under the wide-ranging joint communique adopted at this week's summit, however, the two sides pledged to significantly bolster all-round cooperation, especially political and security relations, including opening a top-level security dialogue channel.
On North Korea, Park and Xi agreed in the joint communique that the communist nation's nuclear program poses a serious threat to peace in the region and beyond and pledged to work closely together to bring about a nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula.
During the university speech, Park outlined her vision for peace with the North.
"I want to bring genuine peace to the Korean Peninsula," she said. "What is more important than anything else is to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue and for North Korea to become a responsible member of the international community. North Korea should listen to the united voice from the international community that its nuclear program is unacceptable."
Park said she is ready to help North Korea revive its broken economy if it gives up its nuclear program. She also stressed that a peaceful Korean Peninsula would also be of help to the prosperity in Chinese provinces bordering with North Korea.
"A Northeast Asia without geopolitical risks stemming from the issue of North Korea would serve as a 'growth engine' for the world through the combination of a rich labor force and the world's best capital and technologies" in the region, she said. "It will offer more opportunities of success for your lives as well."
Park also outlined her "Northeast Asia peace and cooperation initiative," saying countries in the region have a high level of mutual economic interdependence, but their political and security cooperation lag far behind due to historical and security disputes.
The initiative, also known as the "Seoul process," calls for countries in the region to start with softer, non-political issues, such as environmental issues, disaster relief, nuclear safety and counter-terrorism, so as to foster trust and expand cooperation to political and security matters.
Beijing was the first leg of Park's four-day state visit to China.
Later Saturday, Park was scheduled to fly to the ancient city of Xian in western China.
Xian, an ancient capital with more than 3,000 years of history, is a base for China's push to develop western parts of the country and has great potential for economic cooperation as the city could serve as a foothold for South Korean firms trying to expand into Central Asia and Europe.
While there, Park plans to meet with leaders of the Shaanxi province for discussions on ways to increase economic cooperation and other ties between the two sides. She also plans to visit South Korean companies and cultural sites in the city.
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