The newly elected South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, pledged at his inauguration on May 10 that he would take action to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue as well as the THAAD-related tensions between Seoul, Washington and Beijing.
Moon, 64, took the oath of office at the National Assembly in Seoul on May 10, after earning 41.1 percent of the vote in the presidential by-election, defeating his two main rivals by a large margin.
In his first speech as president, Moon vowed to prioritize tackling North Korea's nuclear program and resolving disputes over the deployment of a controversial U.S. missile defense system, Yonhap News Agency reported.
"If necessary, I will fly straight to Washington," he was quoted as saying. "I will go to Beijing and Tokyo and, under the right circumstances, go to Pyongyang as well."
On May 10, Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a congratulatory message to Moon that China would like to work with South Korea to ensure the development of Sino-South Korean ties, in order to better benefit the two countries and peoples.
Xi also said that China attaches great importance to its relationship with South Korea, and, on the basis of mutual understanding and respect, is committed to cementing political trust, handling differences and enhancing cooperation, Xinhua News Agency reported.
The presidential race was closely followed by Chinese media, and prevailing reports project improved bilateral relations under Moon’s leadership. South Korea’s deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Defense (THAAD) system – despite China’s persistent protests – has soured relations between Beijing and Seoul. It has also affected China's economic relationship with South Korea, as the number of Chinese tourists traveling to South Korea has plummeted, among other impacts.
Moon has said the decision to deploy THAAD was made hastily, and his government should have the final say on whether or not to deploy it, Reuters reported.