Last week, Seoul and Beijing agreed to move beyond a year-long stand-off over the deployment of a US anti-missile system in South Korea, a dispute that has been devastating to South Korean businesses that rely on Chinese consumers.
The South Korean president is now on an eight-day trip to Southeast Asia that also included his participation in the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders' Meeting in Danang, Vietnam, as well as a number of bilateral talks with other global leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang. In a sign that tensions remain between Tokyo and Beijing over their wartime history and territorial disputes, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed he visit for his own meeting with Xi, but didn't receive an invitation. China earlier had protested the installation of the system known as Thaad - which Seoul insists is for defensive purposes only against Pyongyang - and taken steps to punish it economically.
"That means it will likely be North Korea first freezing its nuclear program and then moving onto complete dismantlement, and if that happens, I believe we and the global community may discuss what we can do in return", he added.
"We are not interested in such dialogue and negotiations in the least", the North's official news agency said, referring to the country by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. But Japan, whose relations with both neighbors have often been fraught, appeared to make little progress toward its hopes of hosting a trilateral summit by the end of the year.
The leaders "shared the view on the need to stably manage the current security conditions on the Korean peninsula in relation to North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes, and agreed to seek to peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through dialogue", the office said.
Also on Saturday, the US and South Korea launched a joint naval drill in a show of strength against the North's leader Kim Jong-un. "We hope that the two sides can work together to put the two countries' ties on a normal track of development at an early date". Since he took office previous year, he has pivoted toward China. "This is not sealed up", said Kim Heung-gyu, director of Ajou University's China Policy Institute, in a nod to the South Korea's government's choice of expressions. Mr Abe, on the other hand, has yet to visit China despite having been prime minister since 2012. The three no's are South Korea's agreement not to deploy additional THAAD batteries, not to participate in the U.S. missile defense network and not to forge a trilateral military alliance with the United States and Japan.
Tokyo was upset last week when Seoul invited a former "comfort woman" to a banquet for visiting US President Donald Trump and served prawns caught from waters around the Takeshima/Dokdo disputed islets.
Abe said cooperation is vital to make the world economy more predictable, to mitigate vulnerabilities and to strengthen the free trade system.
"Deglobalization and protectionism are on the rise", Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told the gathering in his opening remarks. "I want to use all opportunities for dialogue because our two countries have great responsibility for the peace, stability and prosperity of the region and the world".