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S. Korea, US trade chiefs hold first face-to-face meeting

The top trade negotiators of South Korea and the United States held their first face-to-face meeting in Washington on Wednesday to discuss the future of the countries' free trade agreement (FTA), both sides said.

The talks between South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer came as Washington seeks to amend the five-year-old deal known as KORUS.


"They discussed ways to move forward," a USTR spokesperson told Yonhap, noting the talks followed the first such session in Seoul last month. During that meeting, Kim and Lighthizer spoke via video.

The two sides agreed not to disclose further details of Wednesday's meeting, according to a South Korean government official.

After the meeting, Seoul's commerce ministry said the two sides agreed to move forward with the discussions and it has sent a letter to its US counterpart to suggest a second round of meetings in Washington at the earliest possible date.

"We will have talks with our US counterpart with an open attitude to maximize the mutual benefit of KORUS FTA," the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a release, without elaborating on details of the meeting.

Washington has blamed KORUS for its growing trade deficit with Seoul. But South Korea argues the deficit is due to macroeconomic factors and the agreement has benefited both sides.

US President Donald Trump has called KORUS a "horrible" deal and threatened to pull out of it.

But any plan for a withdrawal has been apparently put on hold in the wake of North Korea's sixth nuclear test earlier this month.

Kim came to the US partly to accompany President Moon Jae-in to the UN General Assembly in New York this week.