South Korea urges 'parallel' talks and
sanctions to rein in North Korea
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[May 11, 2017]
By Ju-min Park and Christine Kim
SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's new
president launched international efforts to defuse tension over North
Korea's weapons development on Thursday, urging both dialogue and
sanctions while also aiming to ease Chinese anger about a U.S.
Moon Jae-in, a liberal former human rights lawyer, was sworn in on
Wednesday and said in his first speech as president he would immediately
address security tensions that have raised fears of war on the Korean
Moon first spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping and later to Japanese
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with how to respond to North Korea's rapidly
developing nuclear and ballistic missile programs, in violation of U.N.
Security Council resolutions, dominating talks.
"The resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue must be comprehensive
and sequential, with pressure and sanctions used in parallel with
negotiations," Moon's spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, quoted Moon as telling
"Sanctions against North Korea are also a means to bring the North to
the negotiating table aimed at eliminating its nuclear weapons," Yoon
told a briefing, adding that Xi indicated his agreement.
Moon has taken a more conciliatory line with North Korea than his
conservative predecessors and advocates engagement. He has said he would
be prepared to go to Pyongyang "if the conditions are right".
Regional experts have believed for months that North Korea is preparing
for its sixth nuclear test and was working to develop a nuclear-tipped
missile capable of reaching the United States, presenting U.S. President
Donald Trump with perhaps his most pressing security issue.
Trump told Reuters in an interview last month major conflict with North
Korea was possible though he would prefer a diplomatic outcome.
North Korea says it needs its weapons to defend itself against the
United States which it says has pushed the region to the brink of
"Threats from North Korea's nuclear and missile development have entered
a new stage," Japan's Abe told Moon in their telephone call, according
to Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda.
"How to respond to North Korea ... is an urgent issue. I would like to
closely cooperate with the president to achieve the denuclearization of
North Korea," Abe told Moon.
But Abe also said "dialogue for dialogue's sake would be meaningless"
and he called on North Korea to demonstrate "sincere and concrete
action", Hagiuda said, adding that Moon shared Abe's views.
Japan has been concerned that Moon will take a tough line on feuds
stemming from the bitter legacy of its 1910-1945 colonization of the
Korean peninsula and could fray ties at a time when cooperation on North
Korea is vital.
Moon told Abe to "look straight at history" and not make the past "a
barrier", though he raised South Korea's dissatisfaction with a 2015
agreement meant to put to rest a dispute over Japanese compensation for
South Korean women forced to work in Japanese brothels before and during
World War Two, Korea's presidential office said.
(For a graphic on South Korea's presidential election, click
[to top of second column]
South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks with Chinese President Xi
Jinping by telephone at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South
Korea in this handout picture provided by the Presidential Blue
House and released by Yonhap on May 11, 2017. Blue House/Yonhap via
While South Korea, China and Japan all share worry about North
Korea, ties between South Korea and China have been strained by
South Korea's decision to install a U.S. anti-missile system in
defense against the North.
China says the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)
undermines its security as its powerful radar can probe deep into
China says the system does little to curb the threat posed by North
Korea's nuclear and missile programs, which it has been pressing
ahead with in defiance of U.S. pressure and UN sanctions.
The deployment of THAAD was agreed last year by South Korea's
previous administration after North Korea conducted a long-range
rocket launch that put an object into space.
Moon came to power with a promise to review the system and he told
Xi that North Korea must cease making provocations before tension
over the deployment could be resolved, officials said.
In the first direct contact between the South Korean and Chinese
leaders, Xi explained China's position, Yoon, the South Korean
presidential spokesman said, without elaborating.
"President Moon said he understands China's interest in the THAAD
deployment and its concerns, and said he hopes the two countries can
swiftly get on with communication to further improve each other's
understanding," Yoon told a briefing.
South Korea and the United States began deploying the THAAD system
in March and it has since become operational.
Xi told Moon South Korea and China should respect each other's
concerns, set aside differences, seek common ground and handle
disputes appropriately, China's foreign ministry said in a
As well as clouding efforts to rein in North Korea's nuclear
ambitions, the THAAD deployment has also led to recriminations from
Beijing against South Korean companies.
Moon explained the difficulties faced by South Korean companies that
were doing business in China and asked for Xi's "special attention"
to ease those concerns, Yoon said.
China has also denied it is doing anything to retaliate against
South Korean businesses.
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING and Kiyoshio
Takenaka in TOKYO; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Paul Tait, Robert
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