by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) May 16, 2017
South Korea's left-leaning new leader Moon Jae-In will travel to the US for a summit with President Donald Trump next month, Moon's spokesman said Tuesday, amid high tensions over the North's nuclear ambitions.
Moon backs engagement with nuclear-armed North Korea to try to reduce tensions, while Trump's administration has said military action was an option under consideration.
"We will prepare the summit as an opportunity to cement personal ties and friendship between the two leaders," said Yoon Young-Chan, adding the meeting will be held in Washington in late June.
The US embassy in Seoul also confirmed on its verified Twitter account that Moon would visit the White House next month for the summit.
The US has been South Korea's security guarantor since the 1950-53 Korean War and has 28,500 troops stationed in the country.
The announcement came a day after the North boasted the launch of the longest-range missile it has ever successfully tested, sparking global alarm.
Tensions have been ratcheted up as Pyongyang and Washington exchanged hostile rhetoric, but Trump recently softened his posture, saying he would be "honoured" to meet the North's leader Kim Jong-Un.
Sunday's missile launch angered the White House which said the North had "been a flagrant menace for far too long" and called for tougher sanctions against Pyongyang.
Moon has said he would be willing to visit the North "in the right circumstances", but also slammed Sunday's launch as a "reckless provocation", saying dialogue would be possible "only if the North changes its attitude."
Tuesday's announcement came as Matt Pottinger, senior director for Asian affairs at the US National Security Council, vowed joint efforts to curb the North's military ambitions during a visit to Seoul.
Pottinger and his South Korean counterpart agreed that the two allies would seek a "bold and practical" approach over the North, with dialogue with Pyongyang possible but only "when conditions are right", Yoon said.
- China envoy -
Sunday's test saw the missile, launched on an unusually high trajectory, fly to an altitude of 2,111.5 kilometres and travel 787 kilometres before landing in the Sea of Japan (East Sea).
The North has staged two atomic tests and dozens of missile launches since the beginning of last year in its quest to build a long-range missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.
Pyongyang says that it needs atomic weapons to defend itself against invasion by its US "enemy" and claimed Sunday's launch involved a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
There are doubts whether the North can miniaturise a nuclear weapon sufficiently to fit it onto a missile nose cone, or master the technology needed for it to survive re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.
But analysts say the isolated, impoverished country has made great process in its military capabilities in the years since the young leader inherited power.
Kim has so far overseen three atomic tests, one more than his late father, who died in 2011.
The growing threats from the North prompted Seoul to recently deploy a powerful US anti-missile system despite angry opposition from neighbouring China, the South's biggest trading partner, which sees it as a threat to its own military capability.
Beijing imposed a series of measures seen as economic retaliation.
Moon's envoy, former prime minister Lee Hae-Chan, will visit Beijing from Thursday to Sunday, China's foreign ministry told reporters.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system also raised questions for the US-South Korea alliance when Trump said Seoul should pay for the $1 billion deployment of the weapons, stunning many South Koreans.
Trump has also said he would push for renegotiation of the free trade pact with Seoul that took effect five years ago, sparking alarm in the South's business community.
United Nations, United States (AFP) May 16, 2017
The UN Security Council has strongly condemned North Korea's latest ballistic missile test and vowed strong measures, including sanctions, to derail Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme. North Korea's long-term bid to develop a credible nuclear attack threat to the US mainland saw it launch Sunday what appeared to be its longest-range missile yet. Pyongyang said the new weapon - called ... read more
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