President Moon talks with China’s Xi on Thaad, NK
SEOUL: South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in told Chinese leader Xi Jinping yesterday 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.
Mr Moon came to power with a promise to review the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) anti-missile system, which is opposed by China but is being deployed as a show of strength against continued provocation by the North.
In the first direct contact between the South Korean and Chinese leaders, Mr Xi explained China’s position, Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman for South Korea’s presidential office said without elaborating.
China has rigorously objected to the deployment, saying it destabilised t he regional security balance and did little to curb the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, which Pyongyang is conducting 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,” Mr Yoon told a briefing.
“President Moon said the Thaad issue can be resolved when there is no further provocation by North Korea.”
Mr Moon said in his first speech as president soon after he was sworn in on Wednesday that he would immediately begin efforts to defuse security tensions on the Korean peninsula and negotiate with Washington and Beijing to ease the Thaad row.
He also said he was prepared to go to Pyongyang “if the conditions are right”.
Mr Moon’s swearing-in brought to an end a months-long power vacuum after previous president Park Geun-hye was ousted in a corruption scandal in March.
Regional experts have believed for months that North Korea was preparing for its sixth nuclear test and was working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the US, presenting US President Donald Trump with perhaps his most pressing security issue.
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.
South Korea and the US began deploying the Thaad system in March and it has since become operational. China sees it as a threat to its security and has called for its withdrawal, but has also denied it was doing anything to retaliate against South Korean businesses.
Mr Xi told Mr Moon Seoul and Beijing should respect each other’s concerns, set aside their differences, seek common ground and handle disputes appropriately, China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
“For a long time, China has upheld the goal of the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, protecting the peace and stability of the peninsula and resolving the problem via dialogue and consultation,” Mr Xi said, according to the ministry.
Mr Moon and Mr Xi agreed to exchange special envoys soon and Mr Moon said he also planned to send a delegation to Beijing to discuss the North Korean nuclear problem and the Thaad deployment, according to Mr Yoon.
China’s foreign ministry made no direct mention of the anti-missile system in its statement about the discussions. Beijing hopes that the new South Korean government attaches importance to China’s major concerns and takes real steps to promote the healthy and stable development of ties, Mr Xi said.
Mr Moon later spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and agreed to hold a bilateral meeting soon, Seoul and Tokyo said.