S. Korea's leader willing to visit North, talk to US, China

South Korea's new President Moon Jae-in has been sworn in, vowing to address the economy and relations with the North in his first speech as president.

Moon, the child of refugees who fled North Korea during the Korean War, will lead a nation shaken by a scandal that felled his conservative predecessor, Park Geun-hye, who sits in a jail cell awaiting a corruption trial later this month. "I will be a president who also serves all the people who did not support me", he said.

An exit poll conducted jointly by three network TV stations had put him on course to get 41.4 per cent of the vote, with his nearest challenger, conservative Hong Joon-Pyo, on 23.3 per cent.

At his first news conference at the presidential Blue House, Moon introduced his nominees for prime minister, the country's spy chief and his presidential chief of staff.

Mr. Moon also nominated Suh Hoon, a longtime intelligence official with expertise in North Korea issues, as his new chief of the National Intelligence Service. "If conditions ripen and provide opportunities to significantly lower military tension in the Korean Peninsula and open a path toward solving the North Korean nuclear problem, which is the most urgent threat to our security, then I think (Moon) will be able to go to Pyongyang".

It is unclear at this time how Moon's North Korea policies will align with those of the Trump administration.

Moon has stressed that he and Trump are on the "same page", CNN reports. "I will regularly talk and frequently meet with them", he said.

Xi also called for continued joint effort to defend hard-won achievements in terms of China-South Korea relations and to build mutual trust and properly settle differences based on mutual respect.

Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Moon on his victory, Chinese state media reported.

Which of South Korea's neighbors and allies stand to benefit most from liberal Moon Jae-in's ascension to the presidency this week? Moon also has questioned the deployment of a US missile defense system the last government rushed into service.

Part of the US missile interception system has been transported to the THAAD deployment site in the country's southeastern region, causing strong protests from anti-THAAD activists and residents.

As President, he must find a way to coax an increasingly belligerent North Korea to ease its nuclear and missile threats.

"I will further strengthen the alliance between South Korea and the United States", he added.

Since the beginning of past year the North - which says it needs atomic weapons to defend itself against invasion - has mounted two nuclear tests and a series of missile launches.

Moon's election could add volatility to relations with Washington, given his questioning of the THAAD deployment, but was not expected to significantly change the alliance, a US official said.

Moon frequently appeared at anti-Park rallies and the corruption scandal boosted his push to re-establish liberal rule.

Fewer than 4.2 million votes cast in the election were still to be counted and the NEC was expected to name Moon the president-elect after its official vote count was completed.

  • Jon Douglas