China's Xi discusses nuclear issue with new S.Korean president

Vincent Carr
May 20, 2017

In a speech after he took the oath of office on Wednesday, Moon said he plans to eventually move out of the Blue House, which was seen as part of an attempt to be a more accessible leader.

During his call with Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe, the two leaders agreed that their countries must not let their hard history hamper co-operation in dealing with North Korea's nuclear program, Moon's office said.

Moon has taken a more conciliatory line with North Korea than his conservative predecessors and advocates engagement.

The Thaad system "is operational and has the ability to intercept North Korean missiles and defend the Republic of Korea", a spokesman for US Forces Korea confirmed on May 2.

He also said he was prepared to go to Pyongyang "if the conditions are right". China has been upset by the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system that was approved by Moon's conservative predecessor as a hedge against North Korea, placing Seoul in a hard spot between its closest military ally in Washington and its largest trading partner in Beijing.

China has vigorously opposed the deployment of a US anti-missile system in South Korea, saying it threatens Chinese security and will do nothing to resolve tensions with North Korea.

A South Korean presidential spokesman said the Chinese leader - who initiated the phone call on Thursday - "explained the reasons for Beijing's strong and repeated opposition" to the deployment, Yonhap news agency reported.

The South Korean statement said Trump said North Korea's nuclear problem was hard, but one that could be resolved.

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North Korea is believed to be preparing for a sixth nuclear test and is working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the United States, presenting U.S. President Donald Trump with perhaps his most pressing security issue.

Moon also received similar congratulatory calls from Japanese and Indian leaders on Thursday.

The North Koreans often use the occasional talks to take the temperature of the USA government, since the two sides have had little direct contact in recent years. "I would like to closely cooperate with the president to achieve the denuclearisation of North Korea", Abe told Moon.

In a speech at the National Assembly, Moon pledged to work for peace on the Korean Peninsula amid growing worry over the North's expanding nuclear weapons and missiles program. Moon accepted Trump's invitation to visit at an "early date".

"I take this office empty-handed, and I will leave the office empty-handed", Moon said. China contends the system's radar ranges into its territory and threatens its security.

As well as clouding efforts to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambitions, the THAAD deployment has also led to recriminations from Beijing against South Korean companies.

While Washington is pushing for stepped-up pressure on Pyongyang, an unofficial US delegation including former senior USA officials held informal talks in Oslo on Monday and Tuesday with North Korean diplomats, including Choe Son Hui, director-general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry's North America section.

China has also denied it is doing anything to retaliate against South Korean businesses.

Other reports by BadHub

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