Xi congratulates Moon, says he values ties between their countries

President Xi Jinping (left) and new South Korean President Moon Jae In.
President Xi Jinping (left) and new South Korean President Moon Jae In. PHOTOS: AFP, BLOOMBERG

BEIJING • China is willing to appropriately handle disputes with South Korea on the basis of mutual understanding and trust, President Xi Jinping said in a congratulatory message to new South Korean President Moon Jae In.

Mr Xi said he had always greatly valued South Korea and relations between the two countries, the official Xinhua news agency said yesterday. It made no direct mention of North Korea or an anti-missile system the United States has deployed in South Korea that China has vigorously opposed, saying it is a threat to Chinese security.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman told a briefing in Beijing that China hoped South Korea "pays attention to China's security concerns" and deals "appropriately" with the Thaad (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) issue.

Mr Moon earlier said the decision to deploy Thaad had been made hastily and his government should have the final say on whether to deploy it. And yesterday, he said he would have "serious discussions with the US and China for the resolution of issues related to Thaad".

Analysts say his hands are tied.

"But now that (Thaad's) there, will he really tell the US Army to pack it up and take it back home?" wrote Mr Marcus Noland and Mr Kent Boydston on the website of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

On Tuesday, China announced that it had recently tested a new type of guided missile in the Bohai Sea near the Korean peninsula - a test seen as aimed at the Thaad system, up and running since the beginning of May.

Hong Kong-based military analyst Liang Guoliang told the city's South China Morning Post: "Given the landing area (in Bohai), the test is obviously aimed at Thaad in South Korea."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also congratulated Mr Moon yesterday. Mr Abe said he looked forward to working with Mr Moon to improve relations, describing South Korea as one of Japan's most important neighbours. Mr Abe also expressed hopes to meet Mr Moon as soon as possible, and to work with him on a plan to promote security cooperation and deal with the North Korean threat.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2017, with the headline 'Xi congratulates Moon, says he values ties between their countries'. Print Edition | Subscribe