Moon Jae-in vows to mend ties with Xi, rejects sex slavery deal with Abe
By Shin Hyon-hee
11 May 2017

SEOUL (The Korea Herald/ANN) - Moon Jae-in and Xi Jinping discussed Thaad issues during 40-minute phone call on Wednesday

President Moon Jae-in and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Thursday agreed to take steps to restore relations frayed by a dispute over Seoul’s decision to house a US missile shield, pledging to exchange special envoys. 

In their first, 40-minute phone call, Moon raised the issue of China’s economic retaliation over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system here, offering to dispatch a delegation to solely discuss the matter. 

Xi, who requested the call in celebration of Moon’s inauguration, invited the Korean president to a summit in Beijing. 

“I’m aware of China’s interests (in Thaad), and we should work together to understand each other better,” Moon was quoted as saying by his senior press secretary Yoon Young-chan at a news briefing. 

“I hope you pay attention to our struggling companies in China. The Thaad issue would be easier to be resolved only if North Korea does not stage additional provocations.” 

In response, Xi said he would also step up efforts on North Korea-related matters, Yoon noted. 

Xi is the second head of state to telephone the newly minted president, who took office Wednesday, following US President Donald Trump. Later in the day, Moon spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

With the North’s evolving nuclear threats, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the denuclearisation of the peninsula. Moon stressed the issue should be tackled through a “comprehensive, step-by-step” approach, which he introduced as an election pledge, while Xi expressed “empathy and agreement,” Yoon said. 

Xi also offered condolences over the death of 10 South Korean kindergarteners during a car crash Tuesday in Weihai, Shandong province, promising assistance to properly handle the case. 

Though they have never met, Xi said he had been observing Moon’s ascent “with great interest” and his “atypical career and various thoughts and viewpoints left a deep impression,” the secretary said. 

With Abe, Moon displayed skepticism over a December 2015 settlement on the wartime sex slavery row, calling for Tokyo’s efforts to uphold the spirit of past apologies. 

“The reality is that a majority of our people cannot accept the agreement emotionally,” the president said. “We need to make joint efforts, acknowledging the sentiment and reality.” 

Abe, in response, said Moon should continue the accord’s implementation “with responsibilities.”

The prime minister also requested Moon’s visit to Tokyo and an early trilateral summit involving Xi.

Moon has vowed to renegotiate the deal, which has drawn robust backlash from victims and the public alike. He called it “unacceptable” and “wrong” during an interview with The Korea Herald, taking issue with the Park Geun-hye administration’s failure to extract Tokyo’s acknowledgment of legal responsibility and compensation and to consult with the victims ahead of the announcement. 

On late Wednesday, Moon also held a 30-minute telephone conversations with Trump, during which he called the alliance the “foundation” of South Korea’s foreign policy and security and touted Trump’s focus on the North’s nuclear problem. 

“The South Korea-US alliance is more important than at any other time given the growing uncertainties over the security situation of the Korean Peninsula,” Moon said. 

Trump expressed “respect” for South Koreans’ choice of Moon as the new president, inviting him to Washington, while saying the nuclear standoff could be resolved despite challenges, Cheong Wa Dae, said in a press release. 

In response, Moon voiced hopes that he could meet Trump in Washington as soon as possible for “heart-to-heart” talks. He also said he would send a special diplomatic delegation to the US at the “earliest date.” 

In Washington, the White House said that Trump congratulated Moon on “his great election victory and their peaceful, democratic transition of power.”

“President Trump and President Moon agreed to continue to strengthen the US-Republic of Korea alliance and to deepen the enduring friendship between our two countries. President Trump said he looks forward to working with President Moon and invited him to visit Washington at an early date. President Moon accepted the invitation,” it said.

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