Xi nudges Moon to think twice on THAAD

Xi nudges Moon to think twice on THAAD

The conversations were dominated by how to respond to North Korea's rapidly developing nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which are in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. They also agreed to freely call each other if a crisis arises before they meet.

Mr Xi congratulated Mr Moon on his election and both exchanged views on a range of issues linked to the Korean peninsula, South Korea's presidential office said.

But analysts warn perceptions that the United States ignored South Korean input on its own security issues - compounded when Trump called both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss North Korea, but the caretaker government in Seoul - have left a key relationship strained before it has even begun.

Moon's softer stance on North Korea could create friction with Washington, which has swung from threats of military action to hints of dialogue as it seeks to formulate a policy under President Donald Trump.

Regional experts have believed for months that North Korea was preparing for its sixth nuclear test and was working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the USA, presenting Trump with one of his most pressing security issues.

The Washington Post said the election showed that democracy is still alive in the South but warned of "a new and potentially hard chapter in relations with Washington". Moon accepted Trump's invitation to visit at an "early date".

Being a politician Moon may yet go back on THAAD but if so it won't be a popular choice. Trump told Moon he looked forward to meeting in person and that he should feel free to call whenever necessary. He also said he would send a special diplomatic delegation to the USA at the "earliest date".

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The presidential election was required after conservative Park Geun-hye was ousted, whose jailing on corruption charges is one of the most turbulent stretches in the country's political history in recent times, the agency report said.

Moon met leaders of opposition parties before his simple swearing-in ceremony at parliament, where his party lacks a majority, and promised to coordinate with them on national security.

The Trump administration has unfolded a strategy of maximum pressure and engagement toward North Korea and has especially focused on bolstering sanctions on the Kim Jong-un regime.

He said that he would even be willing to visit Pyongyang under the right circumstances.

Archbishop Hyginus Hee-joong Kim further encouraged the new leader to attend to the dignity of all citizens: "the vulnerable and disadvantaged in the society can be treated with human dignity and respect, where everyone enjoys the right to freedom of thought and conscience".

China says the system does little to curb the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, which Pyongyang has been pressing ahead with in defiance of USA pressure and United Nations sanctions.

Beijing has been upset by the installation of US missile-defense system in South Korea that was approved by Moon's conservative predecessor as a hedge against North Korea.

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Moon, South Korea's first liberal leader in a decade, assumed presidential duties after the National Election Commission finished counting Tuesday's votes and declared him victor.

The two leaders agreed that their common goal is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. In the telegram, Xi wrote that he hoped to "continue consistently placing great value on relations between South Korea and China and that China will guard the hard achievements it has made with South Korea in China-South Korea relations", the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Moon added that he would have "serious negotiations" with the USA and China over the controversial deployment of anti-missile system Thaad.

Moon has Washington anxious that his more moderate approach could undercut efforts to increase pressure and sanctions on Pyongyang, senior South Korean government officials have said.

In their first phone conversation since his election victory this week, Moon told Xi that it may become easier to settle differences over the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system if North Korea stops its provocations, Yoon Young-chan, Moon's senior secretary for public relations, said Thursday.

In the 2015 comfort women agreement, Abe issued an apology over the issue and arranged for ¥1 billion to be deposited into a South Korean foundation for the dwindling survivors.

Since the two countries established diplomatic relations 25 years ago, their ties have witnessed enormous achievements that deserve to be cherished, Xi said.

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Yoon added, however, that Moon asserted the "need for the two countries to work together and wisely overcome historical disputes".

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