Newly-elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held their first phone call on Thursday afternoon, according to the Blue House, agreeing to work together to pressure North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile programs.
In a 40 minute phone call, which the Blue House says is the first time a Chinese leader has called a newly elected South Korean President to congratulate them on an electoral victory, the two leaders reportedly exchanged “broad opinions” on ROK-China relations and North Korea.
“The North Korean nuclear issue should be solved in a comprehensive and phased manner, and the pressure and sanctions, as well as negotiation, should be combined,” Moon Jae-in is quoted as having told Xi in a Blue House statement.
“The ultimate goal of sanctions against North Korea is to bring the North to the negotiating table for nuclear disarmament,” he added, a sentiment Xi was reported to have agreed with.
The two also discussed the issue of the deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system on the Korean peninsula.
Beijing opposes the system, arguing that its radar systems allow the U.S. and South Korea to spy on nearby Chinese military, and has imposed unofficial sanctions on South Korean companies operating in China.
“We are well aware of China’s concerns and concerns about the deployment of the THAAD,” Moon said. “And I hope that both countries are able to discuss the issue as soon as possible while raising understanding of each other’s stance.”
The Chinese President released a statement yesterday congratulating Moon on his victory, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told media in a press conference yesterday.
“President Xi Jinping said in the message that the Chinese side attaches great importance to the ROK and the relationship with the ROK,” Geng said. “[He] stands ready to work with the ROK side to uphold the hard-won outcomes of the bilateral relationship, consolidate political mutual trust, properly address differences, enhance coordination and cooperation and push for the sound and steady growth of the relationship based on mutual understanding and mutual respect.”
Moon Jae-in also spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday afternoon, according to a separate statement by the Blue House. The two reportedly discussed Japan and South Korea’s “troubled” bilateral history, with Moon suggesting that he would scrap an agreement made by his predecessor over the so-called “comfort women” issue.
Despite this, Moon and Abe also reportedly agreed to cooperate on measures to curb North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Featured image: Moon Jae-in’s Facebook