• 64-year-old Moon Jae-in was elected as president of South Korea on May 9, 2017.

64-year-old Moon Jae-in was elected as president of South Korea on May 9, 2017. (Photo : Getty Images)

Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korea's new president discussed efforts to defuse tensions in the region and agreed in their first conversation on Thursday to meet at a later date, urging both dialogue and sanctions over North Korea's weapons development while also aiming to ease Beijing's worries over a U.S. missile defense system.

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President Moon Jae-in, who was sworn in on Wednesday, first spoke to Xi and later to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over the phone, according to Reuters. The conversations circled around North Korea's rapidly developing nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which violate U.N. Security Council resolutions.

"The resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue must be comprehensive and sequential, with pressure and sanctions used in parallel with negotiations," Moon's spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, quoted Moon as telling Xi in a press briefing.

"Sanctions against North Korea are also a means to bring the North to the negotiating table aimed at eliminating its nuclear weapons," Yoon said, adding that Xi indicated his agreement.

Moon also said that he fully understands China's concerns over the South Korean government's decision to install a U.S. anti-missile system in defense against the North, which has led to increased strain between the two countries.

China claims the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which became operational in March, undermines its security as its powerful radar can penetrate deep into the Chinese border and does little to curb the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

Moon, a former human rights lawyer, said in his first speech as president that he would address security tensions over the Korean Peninsula and promised to review the missile defense system.

"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 said.

In a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry, President Xi expressed hope that the new South Korean government will place great importance on China's major concerns and take tangible actions toward a healthy, stable development of bilateral ties.

The Xinhua News Agency quoted a South Korean senior official as saying that Moon will send envoys to Beijing to discuss issues regarding THAAD and Pyongyang's nuclear program.

Both leaders will keep in contact and hold a meeting in the near future, the report said.

The phone conversation was held a day after Xi sent a message congratulating Moon on his landslide election victory.