South Korea urges 'parallel' talks, sanctions to rein in North

Miranda GreerMay 20, 2017

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - South Korea's new President Moon Jae-in told his Chinese counterpart that he plans to send a special delegation to Beijing for talks on North Korea and a contentious US missile-defense shield, raising the prospect of a thaw in relations between the Asian neighbors.

The election of South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, has given fresh hope of a thawing in relations with China, which have recently been strained due to the deployment of a controversial missile defence system in South Korea.

On Friday, Russia's President Vladimir Putin told Moon in a phone call he was ready to play a "constructive role" in resolving North Korea's nuclear threat, South Korea's presidential office said.

Mr Moon, who took office on Wednesday, favours engagement with the North - whose key diplomatic backer is China - to bring it to the negotiating table over its nuclear and missile ambitions.

Moon called for "dialogue along with sanctions and pressure" on the North, Yoon said, and - echoing the United States' line - suggested that Beijing should do more to tame Pyongyang. The plan under consideration, Kim said, was for Moon to have his first encounter with Trump during the G-20 summit, which will be held in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7-8, and then to visit Washington around the UN General Assembly in September for a summit.

Mr. Moon will take office at a time of heightened tensions with North Korea.

Putin was the last leader of those countries, save North Korea, to call Moon this week to congratulate him on his election. Xi said China was willing to handle disputes with South Korea "appropriately" on the basis of mutual trust and understanding.

Since the beginning of a year ago the North - which says it needs atomic weapons to defend itself against invasion - has mounted two nuclear tests and a series of missile launches.

It was the first such "track two" dialogue between the US and North Korea since Trump took office.

The special election was necessitated by the ousting of conservative Park Geun-hye, whose downfall and jailing on corruption charges marked one of the most turbulent stretches in the nation's recent political history.

"Putin and Moon agreed on further contacts", the Kremlin said. The missile system becoming partially operational sparked protests throughout South Korea from those anxious about war with the North. Protest signs throughout the country have carried messages like "Hey, U.S.!"

Despite keeping its options open, the Trump administration has said time and again there would not be any sort of negotiations with North Korea unless it agreed to a list of preset conditions. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the United Nations the USA wants to bring North Korea to "its senses, not to its knees", according to the Newsweek report. Still, Moon stressed that the matter shouldn't remain a sticking point for the two nations to pursue "future-oriented relations", Yoon said in a separate briefing.

If they had, North Korea might have become more dependent on South Korea than on China, in which case US and South Korean leaders would not have to plead constantly with China to rein in the North Korean regime.

The South Korean government said last week it believed Chinese authorities had told travel agencies in Beijing to stop selling trips to South Korea, intensifying fears of a trade war between the neighbors.

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