23 September 2018

Trump may ‘hold up’ South Korea trade deal until pact with North

KONFRONTASI - US President Donald Trump says he may delay the implementation of a major trade deal recently made with South Korea until Washington reaches an agreement with North Korea over abandoning its nuclear and ballistic missiles program.

Trump described on Thursday the agreement with Seoul as a “very strong card” that could be used as leverage in the upcoming negotiations with North Korea over Pyongyang's denuclearization.

"I may hold it up until after a deal is made with North Korea,” Trump said during a speech in the US state of Ohio. “Do you know why? Because it's a very strong card and I want to make sure everybody is treated fairly and we're moving along very nicely with North Korea."

Earlier this week, Washington and Seoul announced they had agreed to make changes to their six-year-old free-trade deal, aiming to double the number of cars US automakers were able to export and imposing a 30 percent cut to the amount of steel South Korea sent to the US.

The White House praised the revamped deal as a “major win” for the US president’s tough approach on trade, saying the two sides had reached a “great new KORUS agreement in principle” and it was up to Trump to decide when to finalize it.

Trump called the US-South Korean trading relationship a "wonderful" fix that would "level the playing field on steel and cars and trucks coming into this country."

Tensions have been running high between Washington and Pyongyang over North Korea's missile and nuclear programs.

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have repeatedly traded insults and threats of military attacks that raised fears of a war between Pyongyang and Washington in recent months.

North Korea is already under numerous harsh US-led sanctions, but has resisted the pressure campaign led by Washington to halt its weapons program.

Amid escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, Trump made an unexpected decision earlier this month to meet with the North Korean leader.

A potential summit between the two may take place by the end of May.

Pyongyang has made no public announcement about a summit with Trump, but it said through the state-run KCNA news agency that North Korea’s engagement in the diplomatic process with the South and the US is a sign of its strength, dismissing speculation that the tough sanctions imposed on the country over its military program has pushed it to the negotiating table.

Tensions heightened between the two countries after Trump warned to “totally destroy” North Korea during a speech to the UN General Assembly.

Pyongyang has time and again asserted that it will not threaten or use its nuclear deterrence unless it comes under attack.[ptv]

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