S. Korea's Moon to send delegation to China amid frayed ties


Chinese President Xi Jinping extended the invitation to the Belt and Road conference in Beijing during a telephone call on Thursday with new South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Moon's spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, told a briefing on Friday.

A liberal leader in South Korea seeks warmer ties with North Korea, clashing with the Republican in the White House intent on snuffing out the North's nuclear weapons program.

Only now, the stakes are much higher.

Moon will have a hard diplomatic path to tread in his approach to the North, which dreams of a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental United States, and has vast artillery forces trained on Seoul.

Moon's election victory Tuesday presents a "risk of tension and divergence of opinion" between the USA and South Korea, said Daniel Russel, who was President Barack Obama's top diplomat for East Asia.

Regional experts have believed for months that North Korea is preparing for its sixth nuclear test.

"This is in the common interest of China and South Korea as well as overall peace and stability in the region", Xi said, according to the statement. That could slow any attempt at rapprochement with the North's unpredictable leader, Kim Jong Un, at a time of broad worldwide support for sanctions.

An encounter with North Korean participants may not be ruled out as Pyongyang is also sending its delegation led by the external economy minister to the Chinese forum, according to the official.

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Moon's conversation with Xi came a day after he spoke with President Donald Trump, who in the phone call congratulated Moon on his election win and invited him to visit the White House. According to NewsWeek, Moon's leadership will have adverse effects on the relationship between the US and South Korea.

Moon told Xi that it would be easier to settle the missile-defense issue if North Korea wasn't engaging in provocations, the statement said.

The US and South Korea have a decades-long military and political alliance and Washington is by far Seoul's most important bilateral partner.

Ties between Seoul and Beijing have soured over the South's deployment of a controversial USA anti-missile system aimed at guarding against threats from the nuclear-armed North.

Moon succeeds Park Geun-hye, who was ousted in a corruption scandal. Beijing hopes that the new South Korean government attaches importance to China's major concerns and takes real steps to promote the healthy and stable development of ties, Xi said.

Moon advocated dialogue with the North as well as sanctions, adopting a more conciliatory stance than his predecessor. He has suggested revisiting a deal settling the historical dispute related to abuses suffered by Korean women in Japanese military brothels during World War II.

Moon previously mentioned that South Korea should learn how to say no when it comes to cooperating with their American allies.

US officials have said they see no value in resuming global talks with North Korea under current circumstances and that Pyongyang must make clear it is committed to denuclearization. Before South Koreans voted, he demanded a payment of $1 billion for the THAAD system.