South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office said Thursday he plans to send a delegation to Beijing to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program and China’s concerns about a U.S. missile defense system being deployed in South Korea.
The leaders spoke by telephone a day after Moon was sworn in to replace the ousted Park Geun-hye.
Moon’s spokesman said the presidents agree on the “common goal” of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, and that Moon understands China’s concerns about the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.
South Korea has worked with the United States to develop THAAD to help protect it in case of a North Korean missile attack. The first part of the system became operational early this month, and the full capabilities are expected to be set up by the end of the year.
China views THAAD as a threat and a destabilizing influence in the region, and has retaliated against South Korea with limits on tourism and imports.
Moon said at his inauguration Wednesday he is prepared to lead a major international diplomatic effort to find a peaceful resolution to the tense security situation.
“If needed I will fly directly to Washington. I will go to Beijing and Tokyo. And if conditions are met I will go to Pyongyang. In order to bring about peace and security on the Korean Peninsula I will do everything that I can,” he said.
Moon wants to increase dialogue and engagement with North Korea while also maintaining pressure and sanctions to encourage change. His position conflicts with that of U.S. President Donald Trump, who seeks to increase pressure on Pyongyang through further isolation and sanctions.
Korea Economic Institute analyst Troy Stangarone told VOA that Moon has stated he would only negotiate with North Korea after consulting with the United States.
"I would think that the [U.S.] administration would like to hear out what he has in mind, how viable that might be, and how it might fit into their policy, which is maximum pressure and engagement," he said.
Stangarone also added that whatever international plans Moon has, the economic situation in South Korea and the fact that he was elected following an impeachment mean that domestic issues will constrain what he wants to do.