New South Korean leader gets White House invite from Trump

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13 May, 2017

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 USA ally at odds with the Trump administration as it considers military intervention in the region.

Moon explained that there was opposition toward the agreement within South Korea, and said, "There will be a need to wisely resolve historical issues so that both nations can further develop". If so, actually reconsidering THAAD would go a long way, since Beijing has been furious with Seoul for allowing it. "I will go to Beijing and Tokyo and, if the conditions are right, to Pyongyang also".

Moon was sworn in Wednesday, just a day after a landslide election victory following the ouster of his predecessor Park Geun-Hye over a massive corruption scandal.

But North Korea's nuclear weapons program has made remarkable progress since Moon worked for a liberal government that engaged the North with big aid shipments and economic cooperation projects 10 years ago.

On that front, Moon's options to generate major change could be severely limited by South Korea's alliance with the United States and whatever position toward North Korea that President Donald Trump decides to take.

He calls for sanctions and pressure against Pyongyang to be balanced with engagement efforts, and says he's open to the idea of holding talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the nuclear issue, which would mark a sharp departure from recent South Korean policy. 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".

More news: Trump to meet top Russian diplomat at the White House

He also said that he would engage in "serious negotiations" with the U.S. over its controversial anti-ballistic missile system Thaad created to thwart attacks by North Korea, which was deployed last week despite angry protests from China. The paper also called on South Korea and the U.S.to stop conducting joint military exercises.

China has rigorously objected to the deployment, saying it destabilised the 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.

When it comes to the presidential election in South Korea on Tuesday, the general expectation is that the conservative forces who have ruled the country most of the time may be facing a rout.

The North's state-run propaganda Web site Uriminzokkiri claimed that North Korea policies that are hostile to fellow countrymen and intensify confrontation should be fundamentally eliminated. But he's said South Korea shouldn't be afraid to say no to the United States.

Moon came to power with a promise to review the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, which is opposed by China but is being deployed as a show of strength against continued provocation by the North.


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