US President Donald Trump on Thursday threatened to "hold up" the trade agreement his administration finalized with South Korea this week in an effort to gain more leverage in potential talks with North Korea.
Speaking on infrastructure in Ohio, Trump highlighted the recently completed renegotiation of the Korea-US free trade agreement, but he warned, "I may hold it up until after a deal is made with North Korea." The announcement comes as the two Koreas have announced plans to hold bilateral meetings next month in advance of a possible meeting between Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un by the end of May.
Trump noted the "rhetoric has calmed down" with North Korea, but added he may hold up the first trade agreement concluded by his administration, "because it's a very strong card and I want to make sure everyone is treated fairly."
Trump didn't explain why the trade deal and North Korea talks couldn't proceed simultaneously. But the US is counting on close US-South Korea alignment to present a united front as both countries press the North to denuclearize. The complex and politically charged issue of the renegotiated trade deal could prove distracting just as the US is pursuing high-stakes diplomacy with Pyongyang.