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

Bruno Cirelli
Mag 20, 2017

South Korea's new President Moon Jae-in spoke to Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Thursday and said North Korea needs to cease making provocations before tensions over the deployment of a USA anti-missile system in the South can be resolved.

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.

He did not elaborate, but Yoon also said the two leaders agreed that all sides must work together to ease tensions over North Korea's weapons program.

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. "If the conditions shape up, I will go to Pyongyang". 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.

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

South Korea's new liberal President Moon Jae-in was sworn in on Wednesday and vowed to tackle immediately the hard tasks of addressing North Korea's advancing nuclear ambitions and soothing tensions with the United States and China.

South Korea's past decade of conservative rule has encouraged smooth relations with the U.S. Moon's more liberal approach could fuel tensions, as happened under a liberal South Korean government in the 2000s.

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.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe both congratulated Moon on Wednesday.

Japanese officials have described the call as "positive and meaningful", with the two agreeing to cooperate closely to deal with North Korea.

China was willing to keep working hard with all parties, including South Korea, for the peace and prosperity of the Korean peninsula, Xi said.

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

"President Moon said he understands China's interest in the THAAD deployment and its concerns, and said he hopes the two countries can swiftly get on with communication to further improve each other's understanding", Yoon told a briefing. Lee Sun-jin, chairman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he visited a national cemetery in Seoul where he wrote in a visitor book: "A country worth being proud of; a strong and reliable president!"

South Korea and the United States began deploying the THAAD system in March and it has since become operational.

Suh said Moon could go to Pyongyang if it was clear the visit would help resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis and ease tensions. The system has angered Beijing, which says its powerful radars allow Washington to spy on its own military operations.

Moon also raised the issue of apparent economic retaliation against South Korean firms in China, he said.

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

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