Published: Thu, May 11, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

New South Korea president vows to address North Korea, broader tensions 'urgently'

Moon named Suh Hoon, a career spy agency official and a veteran of inter-Korea ties, as the head of the National Intelligence Service.

The two Koreas remain technically at war and under South Korean law its citizens need government permission to go to the North.

Lee's appointment requires parliamentary approval.

Mr Moon, 64, said: "I will urgently try to solve the security crisis". "If necessary, I will fly immediately to Washington".

"Under the right conditions, I will also go to Pyongyang".

The new South Korean leader, however, has taken a more conciliatory approach toward North Korea than Trump, who has dispatched a naval strike group to the waters off the Korean peninsula as a warning to the North against its nuclear missile development.

The South's biggest trading partner, China has been infuriated by the deployment of the U.S. anti-missile system THAAD in the country, which it sees as a threat to its own military capability.

"Also, he is said to be the best person to help realize the president's wish to improve the North-South Korean relations as he has much experience such affairs as he has also revised the law on support for (South Korean firms) at the Kaesong joint industrial complex", it added.

Al Jazeera's Rob McBride, reporting from Seoul, said Moon laid out the priorities of his presidency as he was sworn in.

Moon stood and waved to well-wishers through the sunroof of his limousine, which was flanked by police motorbikes and a security detail.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe both congratulated Moon on Wednesday. Moon made a campaign vow to reconsider THAAD.

Moon will hold his first media briefing as president at 2:30 pm (0530 GMT) on Wednesday after a simple inauguration ceremony.

For one thing, Seoul has to consider its alliance with the USA and whatever position toward the North President Donald Trump decides to take. The change of policy raises questions among allies and opposition alike.

The election was closely watched overseas at a time of high tension with North Korea, which is believed to be preparing for a sixth nuclear test and is working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable reaching the United States, presenting US President Donald Trump with perhaps his most pressing security issue. The Western media are concerned Moon will loosen the ties between Korea and the USA and altering the deal over the THAAD system.

Experts have been predicting an imminent nuclear test, North Korea's sixth, for weeks now, as the country ramps up missile testing and saber rattling.

Moon has been a critic of the hard-line stances that conservative governments in Seoul maintained against North Korea over the past decade and has called for sanctions and pressure against Pyongyang to be balanced with engagement efforts.

"Moon has been stern with the United States, telling them no preemptive strike on North Korea without our cooperation; that's rather appealing for South Koreans." said Kim Ji-yoon, the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

The White House congratulated Moon on his win in a statement.

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

His party lacks a majority in a divided parliament.

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