SEOUL • The former leader of South Korea's main opposition party has confirmed he will run in the next presidential election.
Mr Moon Jae In, 63, who is leading in a poll of candidates to be the next president, also said yesterday that the deployment of a United States anti-missile system should be decided by the next administration.
South Korea and the US agreed this year to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) anti-missile system in response to North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile tests. But China vehemently opposes the system's deployment in South Korea, fearing its radar would be able to penetrate its territory. Russia also opposes it.
Uncertainty surrounding President Park Geun Hye following a vote in Parliament to impeach her last week, the timing of the next election and the change of administration in the US have contributed to questions about the timing of the deployment of the anti-missile system.
The Constitutional Court has up to 180 days to uphold or overturn Parliament's vote to impeach Ms Park, who has been stripped of her powers while she awaits the court's decision. If she leaves office early, an election would be held in 60 days.
Mr Moon said at a news conference in Seoul the Thaad system should await a new president in South Korea.
"It is inappropriate for the Thaad deployment process to go on under the current political circumstances," said the former chairman of the main opposition Minjoo Party.
The commander of US Forces Korea said last month the Thaad battery would be deployed in South Korea within eight to 10 months.
Mr Moon yesterday held out the possibility of renegotiating the agreement to deploy the system, saying doing so would not damage relations with the US.
He said if elected, he would work to maintain strong ties with the US, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea.
Mr Moon came out tops in a poll of possible presidential candidates released yesterday by Realmeter, with 24 per cent, compared with 19.5 per cent for outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.
Mr Ban, 72, has not said whether he will stand, but had been widely expected to do so when his 10-year term at the helm of the global body finishes at the end of this month.
Mr Moon lost the last presidential election to Ms Park by 3 percentage points. As a student activist in the 1970s, he was jailed for opposing the dictatorship of Ms Park's father, President Park Chung Hee.
He had been a friend and ally of former president Roh Moo Hyun since the 1980s, when they worked together as human-rights lawyers defending students and labour activists persecuted under the military dictatorship. When Mr Roh became president, Mr Moon became his chief of staff.
Mr Moon supports the country's alliance with Washington, but he has argued that it needs a more "balanced diplomacy" with the US and China. His party has criticised the current approach on North Korea, saying sanctions alone will not end the North's nuclear weapons programme.