South Korea’s New President and China Move to Soothe Tensions

Despite Thursday’s overture, it will not be easy for Mr. Moon to reverse the decision on Thaad, especially since it has already been deployed in the country, analysts said, including those who worked as policy advisers for Mr. Moon when he was a candidate.

Rather, they said, Mr. Moon will try to persuade China that it should help rein in North Korea’s provocative behavior until both the South and the United States decide the system is no longer necessary.

In a call with President Trump on Wednesday, Mr. Moon pledged to strengthen his country’s alliance with Washington, calling it “the foundation of our diplomacy and national security.”

Many of Mr. Moon’s liberal supporters opposed the Thaad deployment, accusing Washington of foisting a weapons system on South Korea that they say is part of a broader American strategy of containing China with an antimissile shield. Mr. Trump angered them further recently by demanding that South Korea pay $1 billion for the system.

At the same time, the Thaad system has led to a deep schism in relations between Beijing and Seoul, and it has prompted widespread boycotts in China of popular South Korean brands. China is South Korea’s largest trading partner by far.

“I am well aware of the concern and fear of the Chinese about the Thaad deployment,” Mr. Moon told Mr. Xi, according to Yoon Young-chan, the South Korean leader’s spokesman. “I hope both countries can understand each other better on this and will soon open a channel of communication.”

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Equipment for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, system arrived in Seongju, South Korea, last month. During the campaign, Mr. Moon criticized the deployment of Thaad.

Credit
Yonhap, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

During his 40-minute conversation with the Chinese leader, Mr. Moon said he would send separate delegations to Beijing to discuss the Thaad dispute and North Korea’s nuclear threat. He also asked Mr. Xi to help end the Chinese boycott of South Korean goods.

“It will be easier to resolve the Thaad issue when North Korea doesn’t do any more provocations,” Mr. Moon said, according to his aide.

He also called for dialogue with the North, emphasizing that the goal of sanctions must be to bring the country back to the negotiating table. Mr. Xi agreed, according to Mr. Moon’s office.

North Korea appeared to make an overture of its own on Thursday, suggesting in the state-run news media that the two Koreas expel foreign influence from the Korean Peninsula and work together for reunification.

It then repeated a longstanding demand that South Korea and the United States stop their…

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