South Korea’s trade minister said Wednesday he believes the United States should yield more in talks over their free trade agreement in the face of North Korea’s nuclear threat.
In a meeting with reporters in Washington, Kim Hyun-chong said the current military tensions with Pyongyang should strengthen, not weaken, Seoul’s hand in negotiations over a possible amendment to the agreement known as KORUS.
“When there is a national security issue, shouldn’t the U.S. make more concessions?,” the minister said on a visit here to campaign against the scrapping of the deal. “South Korea-U.S. ties are important to us, but also to the U.S. Under these circumstances, I think the U.S., as an ally, should yield more.”
The two sides are set to hold a second round of negotiations in Washington next Wednesday to address U.S. calls for an amendment to the five-year-old pact.
The Trump administration has blamed KORUS for the U.S.’s growing deficit in goods trade with South Korea. Seoul argues the deficit would be larger without the agreement and has called for a joint study of its impact on the two economies.
The first round of talks held in Seoul in August reportedly ended in an impasse. Trump then threatened to pull out of the agreement but stopped short amid strong opposition from within the White House, Congress and relevant industries, as well as heightened tensions caused by North Korea’s Sept. 3 nuclear test.
The U.S. has a deficit of US$27.7 billion in goods trade with South Korea, but a surplus of $10 billion in services trade. Since the agreement took effect, South Korean investment in the U.S. has increased from $2.2 billion to $5.8 billion and created 45,000 jobs.