WASHINGTON -- 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 US make more concessions?" the minister said on a visit to the US capital to campaign against the scrapping of the deal. "South Korea-US ties are important to us, but also to the US Under these circumstances, I think the US, as an ally, should yield more."
In this photo provided by South Korea`s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, trade negotiators from South Korea and the US hold their first meeting on a possible amendment to the bilateral free trade agreement in Seoul on Aug. 22, 2017. (Yonhap)
The two sides are set to hold a second round of negotiations in Washington next Wednesday to address US calls for an amendment to the five-year-old pact.
The Trump administration has blamed KORUS for the US'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. Heightened tensions caused by North Korea's Sept. 3 nuclear test also contributed to the decision.
The US has a deficit of $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 US has increased from $2.2 billion to $5.8 billion and created 45,000 jobs.
As part of efforts to reach out to key opinion leaders, Kim will meet with the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in New York on Thursday to discuss bilateral trade and diplomatic issues, Seoul's commerce ministry said.
The Nobel Peace Prize holder is known as an informal adviser to many prominent people, including US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner.
Kim will then attend the annual gala dinner hosted by the Korea Society, which will be attended by former US president George W. Bush and Victor Cha, who has been tapped as the next US ambassador to Seoul, the ministry noted. (Yonhap)