S. Korea’s new president willing to visit rival North

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — New South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Wednesday he was open to visiting rival North Korea under the right conditions to talk about Pyongyang’s aggressive pursuit of nuclear-tipped missiles.

Moon’s softer stance on North Korea could create friction with Washington, which has swung from threats of military action to hints of dialogue as it seeks to formulate a policy under President Donald Trump.

Moon, speaking during his oath of office as the first liberal leader in a decade, also said he’ll “sincerely negotiate” with the United States, Seoul’s top ally, and China, South Korea’s top trading partner, over the contentious deployment of an advanced U.S. missile-defense system in southern South Korea. The system has angered Beijing, which says its powerful radars allow Washington to spy on its own military operations.

In a speech at the National Assembly hours after being declared the winner of Tuesday’s election, Moon pledged to work for peace on the Korean Peninsula amid growing worry over the North’s expanding nuclear weapons and missiles program.

“I will quickly move to solve the crisis in national security. I am willing to go anywhere for the peace of the Korean Peninsula — if needed, I will fly immediately to Washington. I will go to Beijing and I will go to Tokyo. If the conditions shape up, I will go to Pyongyang,” Moon said.

Moon, whose victory capped one of the most turbulent political stretches in the nation’s recent history, assumed presidential duties early in the morning after the National Election Commission finished counting and declared him winner of the special election necessitated by the ousting of conservative Park Geun-hye.

He is also expected to nominate a prime minister, the country’s No. 2 job that requires approval from lawmakers, and name his presidential chief of staff later Wednesday.

Moon thanked the millions of people who staged peaceful protests for months calling for the ouster of Park, who was impeached and arrested in March over a corruption scandal. He also offered a message of unity to his political rivals — Moon’s Democratic Party has only 120 out of 300 seats in the National Assembly, so he may need broader support while pushing his key policies.

“Politics were turbulent (in the past several months), but our people showed greatness,” Moon said.

“In face of the impeachment and arrest of an incumbent president, our people opened the path toward the future for the Republic of Korea,” said Moon, referring to South Korea’s formal name. To his rivals, Moon said, “We are partners who must lead a new Republic of Korea. We must put the days of fierce competition behind and hold hands marching forward.”

Taking up his role as the new commander in chief, Moon began his duties earlier in the day by receiving a call from Army Gen. Lee Sun-jin, chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, who briefed him on the military’s preparedness against North Korea.

He then left his private residence in…

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