Moon Jae-in (64) has become the new president of South Korea

Wong Maye-E Files
Wong Maye-E Files
Author

13 May, 2017

In a press conference after the call, South Korea's chief of presidential public affairs, Yoon Young Chan, said South Korea is "well aware" of China's interest and concerns over THAAD, adding that Moon expressed a wish during his conversation with Xi for bilateral communication about the issue "as soon as possible".

Moon, a human rights lawyer, won the elections weeks after former President Park Geun-hye was impeached and jailed over corruption allegations.

Moon had vowed on the campaign trail to resume engagement with North Korea, a sharp change from the hard-line approach taken by South Korea's past two governments - and by the global community - in response to North Korea's nuclear tests and missile launches.

The Prime Minister called Moon Jae-in to congratulate him on his election victory and to discuss the crisis around North Korea's nuclear weapons test programme. He even said he would be willing to meet with the North's leader Kim Jong-un if the conditions were right.

Moon during his campaign pledged to seek renegotiations.

Moon is also targeting stronger ties, both diplomatic and economic, with both of these key allies, alongside Japan and Russian Federation, as well as a more conciliatory approach to North Korea in a bid to ease tensions and focus on denuclearisation of the peninsula.

- An archbishop in South Korea encouraged the country's new president to bring unity to a nation struggling both from recent scandals and fears over North Korea's weapons tests.

The deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) in the South has angered China, Seoul's major trading partner, which sees the system's powerful radar as a threat to its security.

But this would put South Korea at odds with the United States, where President Trump has vowed to use "maximum pressure" to force the North to give up its nuclear weapons program, and with an worldwide community that is largely supportive of tougher sanctions. I will fly immediately to Washington, I will go to Beijing and I will go to Tokyo.

Mr. Moon's conservative predecessors generally shared America's approach to North Korea, which is basically to pressure the North through sanctions and other measures to abandon its nuclear program.

Ahead of the swearing-in, Moon met leading lawmakers of Park's Liberty Korea party, which has repeatedly accused him of being a Pyongyang sympathizer, to "beg" for their cooperation. The Western media are concerned Moon will loosen the ties between Korea and the USA and altering the deal over the THAAD system. In an interview with The Washington Post this month, he said the American-South Korean alliance "is the most important foundation for our diplomacy and national security".

After the obligatory congratulations, Japan is cautiously watching to see how relations with South Korea evolve under Moon, known for his tough stance on wartime history and territorial issues.

Kim Dae-jung engaged Pyongyang by laying the groundwork for a tourism project at a mountain on the North Korean side of the border which South Koreans were allowed to visit.


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