Moon, Trump agree on close cooperation on N Korea: Seoul

Cheryl Sanders
May 15, 2017

Mr. Moon said in his first speech as president he would begin efforts to defuse security tensions on the Korean peninsula and negotiate with Washington and Beijing to ease a row over a U.S. missile defense system being deployed in the South.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula remain high and recent weeks have seen the USA and Pyongyang trade angry rhetoric as speculation about another nuclear test grows. The goal was to create commercial, financial and personal ties between the two Koreas, and to that end South Korea sent aid and investment to the North.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin told his newly elected South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, in a phone call on Friday that he is ready to play a "constructive role" in resolving North Korea's nuclear threat, the South's presidential office said.

The White House says Trump spoke with President Moon Jae-in to congratulate him on his election victory and his country's "peaceful, democratic transition of power".

Spy chief nominee Suh said Moon could go to Pyongyang if it was clear the visit would help resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis and ease military tension on the Korean peninsula.

Moon also pledged to sever what he described as the collusive ties between business and government that have plagued many of South Korea's family-run conglomerates, known as chaebol, and vowed to be incorruptible.

The son of refugees from North Korea, Mr Moon served in South Korea's special forces before becoming a human rights lawyer. "If needed, I will fly straight to Washington".

Even though he did not go to Pyongyang himself, Im was convicted and jailed over the trip.

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.

Bruce Bennett, defense expert and senior researcher at the RAND Corporation, pointed out the dilemma that Moon faces, because if the new president rejects Thaad, it will "lead to difficulty with the United States" but if he supports it, this would lead to difficulty with China.

Moon backs engagement with the nuclear-armed North in the quest for peace - in contrast to the threatening rhetoric from the Trump administration in recent weeks - and has immediately declared his willingness to visit Pyongyang.

"We hope South Korea can pay high attention to China's concerns and handle the relevant issue in a proper way", he said.

Pundits said while there was still room for Moon to manoeuvre on THAAD, it was nearly impossible to withdraw the anti-missile system given fears Pyongyang may be preparing for a sixth nuclear weapons test and the fact its deployment was deliberately rushed before Moon was elected.

The decision by the ousted Park's government to host the THAAD system has already proved a headache for Moon as Seoul tries to walk a fine line between Washington, its closest security ally, and Beijing. It said Moon told Abe that it was emotionally hard for South Koreans to accept the agreement.

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