South Korea ’s new conservative president took the oath of office on Tuesday as former prosecutor-general-turned politician Yoon Suk-yeol was sworn for his five-year term replacing Moon Jae-in . The country’s 20th president faces several pressing issues, including how to handle nuclear-threatening North Korea and navigating Asia’s fourth-largest economy through a surging rivalry between superpowers. “It is incumbent upon us to take on a greater role befitting our stature,” he said noting South Korea is the world’s 10th largest economy. Yoon referred to the global pandemic , interruptions in international trade order and global supply chains, climate changes and food and energy crisis as well as challenges to the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes without elaborating. He earlier attacked the Moon government for appeasing the North and genuflecting toward an assertive China , suggesting Seoul should align its international policy objectives more closely with the United States . North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme is a “threat not only to our security and that of Northeast Asia”, he said, adding “the door to dialogue will remain open” for a peaceful settlement of the dispute. Kim Jong-un’s ‘possible’ nuclear test in focus as China envoy visits Seoul “If North Korea genuinely embarks on a process to complete denuclearisation, we are prepared to work with the international community to present an audacious plan that will vastly strengthen North Korea’s economy and improve the quality of life for its people,” Yoon said. This commitment echoes former conservative president Lee Myung-bak’s promise that the South would help with the North’s economic development should it give up its nuclear drive, a suggestion that fell on deaf ears. Yoon’s security advisers include key holdovers from Lee’s government which saw inter-Korean ties hit rock bottom, with troops clashing on the sea border and inter-Korean exchanges coming to a halt. The change in leadership in the South comes as the North once again tested what appeared to be a submarine launched ballistic missile on Saturday, marking its 14th missile launch in 2022, including its largest-ever ICBM test in March. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed to ramp up his development of nuclear arms at the “highest possible” speed and displayed ICBMs at a military parade on April 25 amid signs the North is now preparing its seventh nuclear test. South Korea’s spy agency head Park Jie-won said on Saturday the North is likely to conduct the nuclear test aimed to shrink nuclear warheads to fit on to missiles before US President Joe Biden visits South Korea on May 20 for a summit with Yoon. Kim Jong-un’s ‘possible’ nuclear test in focus as China envoy visits Seoul The Yoon government said it will pursue a “complete and verifiable denuclearisation” of North Korea in a manner based on “principles” – no unrequited conciliatory gestures such as the easing of sanctions to encourage the North to return to dialogue, a suggestion made by the Moon government but rejected by Washington. Instead it will pursue “strong and effective” sanctions through cooperations from the US and the international community and “constructive” roles by the North’s ally China and Russia , according to a copy of the Yoon government’s 110 policy initiatives. “China has repeatedly conveyed its requests for the North to desist from ICBM and nuclear tests. Russia did likewise” but the North turned a deaf ear to the pleas, Park told the Chosun newspaper. China also supplies the North with half a million tons of oil every year, a lifeline for its tattered, sanctions-hit economy. In an apparent bid to counter Washington’s efforts to anchor more firmly in the region, China sent its Vice-President Wang Qishan as President Xi Jinping ’s special envoy to the inauguration, a rare trip amid the pandemic lockdown in China, as the two countries are “important cooperation partners as well as close neighbours”, Beijing said. The US sent Vice-President Kamala Harris ’ husband Douglas Emhoff and Japan had Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi represent the country. “China is seriously concerned that following Yoon’s election, Sino-South Korea ties could suffer and Seoul would join the US campaign to contain China in the region,” Cheong told the Post. Conspicuously, however, Yoon dropped his election promise that he would deploy additional THAAD batteries, a sophisticated American air defence system seen as a direct security threat to China, when he announced the list of 110 policy initiatives. South Korea eyes new missile shield to replace US system that angered China Kim Tae-hyo, a top security adviser to Yoon, said the new government will continue with a “circumspect approach” concerning the THAAD issue, adding the matter would be “reviewed in accordance with the security situation”. Domestically, Yoon, who barely defeated liberal candidate Lee Jae-myung by a margin of just 0.7 per cent, faces a hostile National Assembly which is dominated by the liberal Democratic Party. His government got off to a bumpy start, with the National Assembly boycotting prime minister nominee Han Duck-soo on grounds of conflicts of interests as he has alternated between government posts and lucrative adviser’s roles at a law firm. In South Korea, prime minister is the only Cabinet post that requires parliamentary approval. “This country faces a serious leadership crisis at a time when it faces formidable challenges – North Korea, war in Ukraine , China and Russia versus the United States, not to mention growing inequality, high jobless rates, housing problems and high household and government debts,” Political Science Professor Yoon Sung-suk from the Chonnam National University said. “Under these circumstances, people’s expectations for the new government are modest at best as Yoon, who lacks experience as a top administrator as he spent most of his career time as a state prosecutor,” he added.