New South Korea President Moon Jae-in reaffirms U.S. alliance

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  May 10, 2017 at 12:00 PM
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May 10 (UPI) -- South Korea's newly elected president said Wednesday he is prepared to "fly to Washington immediately if needed" as he pledged to strengthen cooperation with the United States.

But President Moon Jae-in, who won the election by a landslide on Tuesday, also said he is weighing the idea of starting new negotiations with the United States over THAAD, the U.S. missile defense system that has been deployed in South Korea.

"I am willing to go anywhere for the peace of the Korean peninsula if needed. I will fly immediately to Washington, I will go to Beijing and I will go to Tokyo. If the conditions are right, I will go to Pyongyang," Moon said.

The progressive politician's statement on a more conciliatory approach to North Korea relations drew concerns from the analyst community and could generate friction with U.S. North Korea hard-liners, The Guardian reported.

But Moon and his incoming administration may be more interested in promoting political reform following the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye.

The corruption scandal that ended Park's presidency has subsequently dealt a blow to all her policies and in the course of his campaign Moon had promised a departure from approaches representative of the previous administration.

During his first speech before South Korea's National Assembly, Moon said he would be "responsible for personnel" who will serve in his administration, and appoint officials across the political spectrum while exercising transparency, local television network SBS reported.

Moon, who does not have the usual option of a two-month transition for incoming South Korean presidents, also announced a new head of national intelligence, local news service Money Today reported.

Veteran intelligence officer Seo Hoon, who has substantial experience in dealing with North Korea in negotiations, was appointed chief of Seoul's spy agency.

Seo played a critical role in two North-South summit talks, in 2000 and 2007, during the presidencies of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. He also spent time at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., according to the report.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe quickly congratulated the new president and said he hoped Tokyo and Seoul would work to "tackle the problem of North Korea."

Analysts have said change in the South's North Korea's policy would not be substantial, given the increased threat of North Korea in recent months.

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