Xi calls on new SK president to cement mutual trust

By Bai Tiantian Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/10 23:43:39

Newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in (center) and his wife Kim Jung-suk leave after his inauguration ceremony at the National Assembly in Seoul on Wednesday. Moon was sworn in just a day after a landslide election victory. Photo: AFP

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday sent a congratulatory message to Moon Jae-in on his election as South Korea's new president, calling on both countries to cement political mutual trust and properly handle differences since the deployment of the US anti-missile system strained bilateral ties.

China is committed to cementing political mutual trust, properly handling differences and enhancing coordination and cooperation, so as to push for the healthy and stable development of bilateral ties, Xi said.

"I would like to work with you to ensure that the development of Sino-South Korean ties better benefits the two countries and peoples," he said.

Moon won a landslide victory in the presidential election on Tuesday, according to the final results released by South Korea's National Election Commission on Wednesday.

"Xi's congratulatory message sends a signal that China has some expectations for the new South Korean president on restoring bilateral ties," Da Zhigang, director of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Sino-South Korean relations plunged after the US decided to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea. China considers the

deployment an infringement on its national interests as THAAD's radar system could help the US detect the country's military activities.

"Discussions over THAAD will be a hot potato for Moon. The core issue here for Moon is how to balance ties with the US and with China. For many years, South Korea has adopted a strategy of ambiguity to tread carefully between the two powers, but the deployment of THAAD has forever broken that ambiguity," Da said.

He noted that China needs to be patient in resolving the THAAD issue, and Moon may try to test the waters with China on issues like trade or the Belt and Road initiative.

During the presidential campaign, Moon said the decision to deploy THAAD "ignores public opinion and due process," and demanded the deployment's suspension until the new administration takes office and comes up with its own policy.

Jin Qiangyi, director of the Asia Research Center under China's Yanbian University, told the Global Times that Moon's policy is at odds with the US, and some kind of conflict may surface between Seoul and Washington.

Opposing THAAD

Moon was sworn in on Wednesday, and has vowed to immediately tackle the difficult task of addressing North Korea's growing nuclear ambitions and negotiating with Washington and Beijing to ease the row over the THAAD deployment.

He also said that he would even be willing to visit Pyongyang under the right circumstances.

Park Jong-won, a 23-year-old South Korean student in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday that a majority of his South Korean friends in China voted for Moon.

"Moon used to work under President Roh Mu-hyun, and the public's affection for Roh could have helped boost his popularity … As for us South Koreans living in China, many have been affected by the THAAD deployment in a negative way. People hope Moon's opposition to THAAD's deployment could help restore bilateral ties," Park said.

His views were echoed by Kim Ji-hoon, a South Korean who used to live in Beijing. He said he expects Moon to clean up the mess left by his predecessor, ousted former president Park Geun-hye.

Meanwhile, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported that North Korean officials held informal talks with a group of American experts in Oslo, Norway on Monday and Tuesday.

It was their first Track II meeting in half a year. The previous session was held in Geneva, Switzerland.

"It would be conducive to resolving the current tensions on the Korean Peninsula if the meeting could open up more options for North Korea," Da said.

"However, any official talks between the US and North Korea would have to be based on some concessions from North Korea. Moon's options are limited as the North Korean nuclear crisis is more about Pyongyang's relations with the international community than its ties with Seoul," Jin said.

Newspaper headline: Moon urged to rebuild ties

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