(ATTN: UPDATES with results of meeting; CHANGES headline)
By Lee Haye-ah
BALI, Indonesia, Nov. 15 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk-yeol asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to play a more active and constructive role in dealing with North Korea's nuclear program during their first summit talks in Bali on Tuesday.
Yoon's request came as North Korea has sharply escalated tensions with a barrage of missile tests and simulations of a nuclear strike on South Korea, and amid concern it could conduct what would be its seventh nuclear test soon.
China, North Korea's only major ally and economic benefactor, has long been thought to have the leverage to rein in the North's nuclear ambitions.
"President Yoon pointed out that North Korea has recently increased its nuclear and missile threats by continuing to carry out provocations at an unprecedented rate, and said he hopes China will play a more active and constructive role as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and a neighboring country," his office said in a press release.
"President Xi said South Korea and China have a common interest in Korean Peninsula issues and need to defend peace, and that he hopes South Korea will actively improve inter-Korean relations."
Xi expressed his support for Yoon's "audacious plan" that offers massive economic assistance to the North in exchange for a denuclearization commitment.
"President Xi said North Korea's intention is key when it comes to our audacious plan and that if North Korea accepts it, he would actively support it and cooperate for its smooth implementation," the presidential office said.
During the 25-minute meeting, held on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit, Yoon said he hopes to work together not only for regional peace and stability but also on global issues, such as climate change and energy.
"Our government's diplomatic goal is to lead and contribute to freedom, peace, and prosperity in East Asia and the international community," he said in his opening remarks. "China's role is important in seeking freedom, peace and prosperity in the international community."
Yoon further said it is in both countries' interests to closely communicate and cooperate with each other, and that South Korea will work for a mature relationship based on mutual respect.
He also called for holding regular high-level talks between the two countries to jointly address issues, such as the pandemic, the global economic recession and climate change.
Xi responded affirmatively and further proposed launching a 1.5-track dialogue channel between the two countries, and expanding communication and building political trust.
The two leaders agreed on the need to increase people-to-people and cultural exchanges.
"We have an important responsibility in maintaining regional peace and promoting global prosperity, and have an extensive stake in each other's interests," Xi said in his opening remarks, describing the two countries as "close neighbors that cannot move away and inseparable partners" during a time of unprecedented global challenges.
"China wishes to maintain and develop the China-South Korea relationship together with South Korea, strengthen communication and cooperation on multilateral platforms, including at the Group of 20, and provide the world with more positive energy and stability by jointly establishing true multilateralism," he added.
Xi said he would gladly accept Yoon's previous invitation to visit South Korea once the pandemic comes under control and asked that Yoon visit China as well.
The summit with Xi was expected to be the last bilateral meeting Yoon will have during his Southeast Asia tour after separate summits with U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and a trilateral summit involving all three.
North Korea featured prominently in those meetings as well, with Yoon and Biden vowing to respond with "overwhelming force using all available means" in the event North Korea uses nuclear weapons.
The last time the leaders of South Korea and China met was in December 2019, when then President Moon Jae-in held a bilateral meeting with Xi on the sidelines of a South Korea-China-Japan summit in Beijing.
Tuesday's summit came on the heels of Monday's summit between Xi and Biden.
Biden told reporters afterward he told Xi he thought China had an obligation to try to make it clear to North Korea it should not go ahead with what would be its seventh nuclear test and that the United States would have to "take certain actions that would be more defensive" in the event the North went ahead.
Biden said those actions could be "more up in the face of China."