Trump Meets South Korea's Moon Jae-in, Calls for New Trade Deal

By Eli Stokols in Washington and Jonathan Cheng in Seoul Features Dow Jones Newswires

President Donald Trump, opening a meeting with South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in on Friday, said that the two were negotiating a new free-trade agreement and discussing options on North Korea.

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His comments followed a late night Twitter post in which he alluded to a "new trade deal," a comment that sent South Korean officials in search of clarification. Mr. Trump didn't say how he would rework the five-year-old deal with Seoul.

"We are renegotiating a trade deal right now as we speak with South Korea and hopefully it will be an equitable deal, a fair deal to both parties," Mr. Trump said as he greeted Mr. Moon at the White House on Friday. "It's been a rough deal for the United States, but I think it will be much different and it will be good for both parties."

The president also noted the two leaders are "discussing our frankly many options -- we have many options -- with regard to North Korea."

Mr. Moon, who also spoke briefly, thanked Mr. Trump for hosting him and for being the first foreign leader to call and offer congratulations following his election victory.

The bilateral meetings, which began Thursday evening with a dinner at the White House, confirmed "the United States and South Korea are walking together on the same path toward a great alliance," Mr. Moon continued.

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When Mr. Moon finished, Mr. Trump spoke again and noted that the U.S.-South Korea relationship is "very strong."

The two leaders were due to make further public remarks later.

The tweet, sent shortly after the end of the dinner, set off confusion among government officials and business leaders in Seoul about the U.S.'s commitment to the five-year-old trade pact, which Mr. Trump has lambasted as "a horrible deal."

On Thursday, the new South Korean leader told congressional leaders that he wouldn't seek to cancel or reverse the deployment of a missile-defense system that the U.S. supports.

The missile-defense system, called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, is strongly opposed by China, which is believed to have retaliated against South Korea with economic sanctions and cyberattacks.

During Mr. Moon's meeting on Thursday with congressional leaders, which included House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), the South Korean president said that if there were any doubts that the new administration in Seoul was seeking to withdraw from its agreement on Thaad, "you may discard such suspicions," according to a spokesman for South Korea's presidential Blue House.

Mr. Moon's remark was his clearest statement yet on a contentious topic that has been marked by misunderstandings about the new South Korean administration's intentions on Thaad.

The meeting Friday comes amid concerns in both Washington and Seoul about the strength of the alliance under Messrs. Trump and Moon, who have started their respective terms touting different strategies on how to handle North Korea.

Mr. Trump has also sown confusion by suggesting that South Korea should pay more for the U.S. military presence in South Korea, which includes about 28,500 soldiers.

--William Mauldin in Washington and Kwanwoo Jun in Seoul contributed to this article.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 30, 2017 11:47 ET (15:47 GMT)