Moon vows to tackle North Korea

South Korea's new president Moon Jae-in has told China he will send a special delegation to Beijing to discuss the North Korean nuclear crisis and the United States missile defence system that has blighted relations between the two countries.

Moon also has said he would reconsider the deployment of a controversial US missile defense system known as THAAD, which was installed on the divided peninsula based on an agreement with ousted President Park Geun-hye.

South Korea's relationship with China has been tense in recent months due to the deployment of the US missile defense system THAAD, which China sees as compromising its military interests.

During Thursday's call, Xi reaffirmed China's opposition to the THAAD deployment, Moon's office said.

During the 40-minute conversation, Moon revealed his plans to send separate delegations to Beijing to discuss the dispute and North Korea's nuclear threat. Moon accepted Trump's invitation to visit at an "early date".

The six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions have been stalled since late 2008, largely due to a North Korean boycott.

New South Korean President Moon Jae-in has cast doubt on a landmark deal with Japan over wartime sex slaves.

Moon Jae-in was sworn in as South Korea's president Wednesday.

In January, Tokyo withdrew two diplomats from South Korea after a statue of a "comfort woman" was erected outside the Japanese consulate in the southern city of Busan, arguing it breached the 2015 agreement.

"We want to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean peninsula together with other countries including South Korea", The Global Times quoted Xi as saying.

It has conducted its fifth nuclear test and a series of missile launches since the start of previous year, ratcheting up tension.

Mr Moon will also have more flexibility than his conservative predecessors to accommodate a US-led Iran-style deal aimed at freezing North Korea's nuclear and missile activities.

Those who predict that a Moon presidency will disrupt South Korean relations with the United States and Japan are surely mistaken. President Moon stressed that the alliance is the basis of Seoul's security and diplomatic policy direction and will continue that way, showing appreciation for President Trump's efforts to prioritize the North Korean issue.

The Trump administration, while sending its warm wishes to Moon, appears concerned that a pivot leftward for South Korea will significantly hurt its strategy to denuclearize North Korea.

Moon told Xi that it would be easier to settle the missile-defense issue if North Korea wasn't engaging in provocations, the statement said.

"South Korea alliance is more important than ever before", Moon said, according to Yonhap.

The Washington Post said the election showed that democracy is still alive in the South but warned of "a new and potentially hard chapter in relations with Washington".

Trump, who spoke with Moon on Wednesday, this month opened the door to meeting North Korea's Kim Jong Un, saying he would be "honoured" to meet Kim - but only under the right circumstances.

  • Joey Payne