South Korea: Bishops urge new president to work for peace and reconciliation


South Korea's new President Moon Jae-in speaks at the presidential Blue House in Seoul after taking the oath of office on May 10, 2017.

South Korea's new president Moon Jae-In spoke to the leaders of China and Japan Thursday, hours after a telephone call with his USA counterpart Donald Trump, officials said, as he began shaping his approach to the nuclear-armed North. He will send a delegation to Beijing to discuss both North Korea and Thaad.

In their first telephone conversation, Moon and Xi "agreed that denuclearising the Korean peninsula is the two countries' common goal", the South Korean president's spokesman Yoon Young-Chan told reporters.

While South Korea, China and Japan all worry about North Korea, ties between South Korea and China have been strained by South Korea's decision to install a U.S. anti-missile system in defence against the North.

Earlier this month, South Korean officials said the THAAD system was already operating, and experts say it will be extremely hard now for Moon to ask Washington to withdraw it.

The South's president additionally dove straight into Beijing's disapproval of Seoul and Washington's move to deploy an American anti-missile system, THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense), on South Korean soil.

Trump expressed "respect" for South Koreans' choice of Moon as the new president, and said that the North Korean conundrum, though challenging, can be resolved, the presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae, said in a press release.

"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", Yoon told a briefing.

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Xi officially invited Moon to visit Beijing, Yoon added.

Moon lost to Park in the 2012 election, but his election to the presidency "will end nearly a decade of conservative rule in South Korea".

The Prime Minister called Moon Jae-in to congratulate him on his election victory and discuss worldwide tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons test programme.

Trump reaffirmed the US-South Korea alliance was strong and said North Korea's nuclear issue was a hard problem but one that could be resolved, the Blue House said in a statement. Beijing, meanwhile, likely hopes to win big concessions from Moon, and Tokyo worries he'll upset a delicate arrangement meant to settle the two countries' hard past.

All eyes are on Seoul after South Korea's Democratic Party President Moon Jae-In was sworn in Wednesday, promising to ease the crisis on the Korean peninsula and balance relations with long-time ally the United States and its rising neighbor, China.

The deployment is also unpopular among South Koreans who live near the site that hosts the system because they believe it makes them a target.

Moon must also try to mend a society badly bruised by the corruption scandal that doomed Park's administration. But a WSJ op-ed by Michael Breen said Moon's approach is likely to be more realistic than the "sunshine policy".

"We are well aware of China's concerns and concerns about the deployment of the THAAD", Moon said.