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China, South Korea seek to steer North from nuclear path

The presidents of China and South Korea have agreed they want North Korea to move away from its agenda of atomic antagonism. A US missile-defense system deployed on the peninsula was also a topic of conversation.

In his first talk with Chinese President Xi Jinping since being sworn in as South Korea's president, South Korea's Moon Jae-in (pictured) sought common ground with China on North Korea's nuclear program.

"The resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue must be comprehensive and sequential, with pressure and sanctions used in parallel with negotiations," Moon's spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, said the president had told Xi. "Sanctions against North Korea are also a means to bring the North to the negotiating table."

The presidents also discussed the contentious Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system the United States installed in South Korea to Beijing's chagrin.

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S. Korea's new leader seeks to ease tensions

"President Moon said he understands China's interest in the THAAD deployment and its concerns and said he hopes the two countries can swiftly get on with communication to further improve each other's understanding," Yoon said of the 40-minute phone call. "President Moon said the THAAD issue can be resolved when there is no further provocation by North Korea."

Moon took over this week after his predecessor, Park Geun-hye, fell to a growing corruption scandal in March. Park had agreed to the deployment of the THAAD system last year after North Korea launched an object into space with a long-range rocket launch that put an object into space. During his campaign for this week's snap presidential election, Moon said he wanted to review that decision.

Infografik Militärisches Kräfteverhältnis in Ostasien ENG

'Peace and stability'

China charges that the US THAAD system destabilizes security and does little to curb the threat posed by the nuclear and missile programs that North Korea has pursued in defiance of pressure by the United States and sanctions by the UN. In his first speech after Wednesday's swearing-in ceremony, Moon said he would immediately begin efforts to defuse security tensions on the Korean Peninsula and negotiate with the United States and China to ease the THAAD row. He said he would even go to Pyongyang "if the conditions are right."

According to a statement from China's Foreign Ministry released on Thursday, Xi was on board with his counterpart's suggestions.

"For a long time, China has upheld the goal of the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, protecting the peace and stability of the peninsula, and resolving the problem via dialogue and consultation," Xi said, according to the Foreign Ministry. 

Despite China's unease with North Korea's repeated nuclear and missile tests - and its agreeing to UN sanctions against the isolated state - Beijing remains Pyongyang's most important economic and diplomatic backer.

Germany, too, applies sanctions to North Korea.

mkg/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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