New S.Korean leader sets course in stormy diplomacy

"We want to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean peninsula together with other countries including South Korea", Xi said.

As well as clouding efforts to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambitions, the THAAD deployment has also led to recriminations from Beijing against South Korean companies.

Ties between Seoul and Beijing have soured over the South's deployment of a controversial United States anti-missile system aimed at guarding against threats from the nuclear-armed North. China has vowed appropriate response for THAAD missile batteries.

The conversation came as Abe sought to congratulate the new South Korean leader on his election this week.

"We can not say there have not been ups and downs in the countries' relationship for more than half a century since the countries normalized their diplomatic ties, but their relations have seen great advances in various areas, and there is unlimited space for further development in the future", Moon was quoted as saying.

"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 told a briefing.

In a speech after he took the oath of office on Wednesday, Moon said he plans to eventually move out of the Blue House, which was seen as part of an attempt to be a more accessible leader.

The Thaad system "is operational and has the ability to intercept North Korean missiles and defend the Republic of Korea", a spokesman for US Forces Korea confirmed on May 2.

The deployment of the THAAD system was agreed on by Park's administration previous year after North Korea conducted a long-range rocket launch that put an object into space.

During the 40-minute conversation he also proposed sending a special delegation to Beijing that will "exclusively discuss the Thaad and the North's nuclear issues", Mr Yoon said.

China sees it as a threat to its security and has called for its withdrawal, but has also denied it was doing anything to retaliate against South Korean businesses.

The Chinese state television report made no direct mention of the anti-missile system, instead citing Xi as saying that both sides should handle their disputes appropriately. Beijing hopes that the new South Korean government attaches importance to China's major concerns and takes real steps to promote the healthy and stable development of ties, Xi said.

The call also touched on a controversial 2015 agreement over compensating South Korean women forced into sexual slavery by Japan's military in World War II, Moon's office said. China and South Korea, as well as Russian Federation, the United States and Japan took part in talks with North Korea on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula from 2003 until 2009, when Pyongyang withdrew from the six-party talks.

"Just spoke with my friend President Moon Jae-in".

  • Jon Douglas