China's Xi applauds SKorea's Moon on election win

Cheryl Sanders
May 15, 2017

The dovish Moon, who has been skeptical of USA power in the region, presents an opportunity for President Trump to follow through on his campaign-era promise of re-evaluating US defense commitments in places like the Korean penninsula. Ahead of the swearing-in, Moon met with leading lawmakers of Liberty Korea - which advocates a hard line on the North and has repeatedly accused him of being a Pyongyang sympathiser who would "hand the whole country to the North once elected".

He had always been the frontrunner of the 2017 campaign, even before Park Guen-hye's impeachment pushed the election date up by seven months.

Park's decision to allow the United States to base a state-of-the-art missile defense system known by the acronym THAAD in South Korea's territory to cope with North Korean nuclear threats is a major irritant.

Regional experts have believed for months that North Korea is preparing for its sixth nuclear test. "If needed, I will fly straight to Washington".

Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Moon over his election victory, saying he would be willing to work with him on a basis of "mutual understanding and mutual respect", according to China's official Xinhua news agency.

The agreement over THAAD between Obama and Park was not ratified by Congress, while the U.S.'s accelerated deployment of the missile defense system runs counter to some of President Trump's rhetoric (something American and worldwide observers will probably have to get used to).

Park's term ended early when she was impeached for corruption and abuse of power, and KCNA said: "The election took place before the expiry of the previous regime as traitor Park Geun Hye was dismissed from office under the unanimous demand of the south Koreans for committing the unprecedented crimes in the history of politics of south Korea".

In their first phone call since Moon's inauguration, the two leaders "agreed on close cooperation in resolving security concerns on the Korean peninsula including North Korea's nuclear ambitions", the Blue House said in a statement.

Moon has been against the deployment of THAAD and, as Gye Woon Jeon, president of Students for Liberty in South Korea told Reason, has also demanded the withdrawal of USA forces in Korea.

During the call, Moon told Xi that South Korean people and companies in China "are going through many difficulties", and said he hoped Xi could "pay special attention so the restrictions and sanctions could be smoothly resolved", Yoon said.

China is South Korea's largest trading partner, with the latter exporting up to $142 billion each year to the country.

There's widespread opposition in South Korea to the THAAD deployment and loud protests from China, which also sees the system as a security threat.

South Korea's new President Moon Jae-in told Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Thursday that North Korea must cease making provocations before tensions over the deployment of a US anti-missile system in the South can be resolved, officials said.

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