New Moon over South Korea may doom US THAAD anti-missile system

When they take place, diplomatic sources in Seoul say North Korea's nuclear threats will top the agenda as well as the South Korea-U.S. free trade deal and the costs related to the THAAD missile defense system. Tuesday-the day he was elected-Moon announced that "under the right conditions" he could open discussions with Pyongyang, a stance some believe could put the US ally at odds with the Trump administration as it considers military intervention in the region.

The last time South Korea had a liberal leadership it embraced a "Sunshine Policy" of rapprochement with Pyongyang and, as a close aide to then president Roh Moo-Hyun, Moon helped arrange the last inter-Korean summit with late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.

Moon said at his inauguration Wednesday he is prepared to lead a major global diplomatic effort to find a peaceful resolution to the tense security situation. "If it is necessary, I will fly immediately to Washington and also visit Beijing and Tokyo". He has said he would be prepared to go to Pyongyang "if the conditions are right".

After winning a landslide victory in Tuesday's election, Moon vowed to work closely with the USA and address relations with North Korea, marking a radical shift from the hardline stance of his conservative predecessor Park Geun-hye, who is awaiting trial on charges of corruption and bribery after she was impeached in December 2016.

But analysts said the new South Korean president is likely to be constrained and more pragmatic in office, instead of making a U-turn on current policies towards North Korea.

He also told President Xi that the controversy over THAAD could be resolved much more efficiently if North Korea would stop its missile tests, the latest of which occured less than two weeks ago.

The issue has clouded efforts to rein in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, and also led to recriminations by Beijing against South Korean companies.

"I will engage in honest negotiations with the United States and China to find a solution to the THAAD problem", he said. The system has angered Beijing, which says its powerful radars allow Washington to spy on its own military operations.

South Korea's relations with Japan are strained by the Japanese military's sexual exploitation of South Korean women during World War II, and relations with China have been irritated over the THAAD anti-missile system deployment.


President Moon Jae-in told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that he's aware of Beijing's concerns over a USA missile shield installed on South Korean territory and will work to resolve the problem.

"We can't deny that the ruler of the North Korean people is Kim Jong Un", he said in March.

"North and South Korea should seek dialogue and negoti-ations at various levels", it added. With that said, Moon was also particularly vocal in discussing about loosening their ties with the Trump administration.

Moon, the son of refugees from North Korea, favors engagement and cooperation with North Korea.

Moon Jae-in gestures to his party members as they watch a broadcast of exit polls in Seoul.

He has also said he wants to reconsider the USA deployment of THAAD anti-missile system on the Korean peninsula.

China's Foreign Ministry said Beijing hoped South Korea "pays attention to China's security concerns" and deals "appropriately" with the THAAD issue.

"For South Korea it is all about sequencing and balance", he said.

The problem between the country and China lies in the U.S. missile defense system in South Korea, which happens to be a threat to the Chinese military.


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