The Asan Beijing Forum held over the weekend provided an opportunity for in-depth, high-level discussion on challenges and opportunities for China-South Korean relations, which have progressed beyond anyone's expectations over two decades on the back of economic opportunity.
The trade relationship has ballooned from around $6 billion at the time of normalization in 1992 to over $250 billion in 2012, which is larger than South Korea's trade volume with the US and Japan combined.
Future progress in the relationship will have to expand beyond its economics-driven focus for its full potential to be realized. However, enhanced Sino-South Korean political and security cooperation will require the two countries to squarely address two fundamental issues on which consensus will be hard to find: North Korea and the future of the US-South Korean security alliance.
One initial test is whether China and South Korea can see eye-to-eye on the necessity of North Korea's recommitment to abandonment of its nuclear weapons as a prerequisite to resumption of Six-Party Talks.
Longer-term, China supports institutionalization of the Six-Party Talks while South Korean President Park Geun-hye is pushing a new vision and process for institutionalizing functional Northeast Asian cooperation that does not require North Korean denuclearization as a prerequisite.