South Korea

China reaches out to new South Korean leader amid tensions with North Korea and the US

President Xi Jinping congratulates South Korea’s new president and calls for mutual understanding and trust

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 May, 2017, 12:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 May, 2017, 12:27pm

China is willing to appropriately handle disputes with South Korea on the basis of mutual understanding and trust, Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a congratulatory message to new South Korean president, Moon Jae-in.

Xi said he had always greatly valued South Korea and relations between the two countries, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Liberal Moon Jae-in wins South Korea’s presidential election

The report made no direct mention of North Korea or an anti-missile system the United States has deployed in South Korea that China has vigorously opposed on the grounds that it is a threat to Chinese security.

Moon’s election could add volatility to relations with Washington, given his questioning of the deployment of the system, called Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD), but is not expected to significantly change the alliance, a US official said.

“It remains a concern that the left of centre, left-wing party in South Korea is going to do well,” the official said, asking not to be identified. “But they are going to have to do some coalition building, so I am not sure he’s going to be able to have an unadulterated anti-alliance, anti-trade stance.”

Some diplomatic observers said ties between Beijing and Seoul, strained by the deployment of THAAD, are unlikely to change much, though Moon is more likely to focus on improving relations with North Korea. They added that any attempt to improve ties between Seoul and Beijing would be seen as a positive step.

Don’t expect a new head in Seoul to change the face of China-South Korea ties

Earlier, Moon Chung-in, an adviser to Moon Jae-in, told the South China Morning Post that President Moon was willing to engage with the Kim Jong-un regime in Pyongyang and seek peace if North Korea did not carry out another nuclear test.

“In fact, Moon’s peninsula policy is very similar to that of Chinese President Xi Jinping, with a double suspension and two-track talks,” the adviser said, referring to China’s proposal for Seoul and Washington to suspend large-scale military drills and for Pyongyang to abandon missile and nuclear tests.

He added that THAAD had caused economic and geopolitical damage to South Korea, and Moon Jae-in was likely to reassess the deployment.

Additional reporting by Liu Zhen and Laura Zhou