South Korea seeking clarity on Trump comments on trade deal

FILE - In this March 7, 2018 file photo, People watch a TV screen showing images of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, center, and U.S. President Donald Trump at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. South Korea says it is trying to find out what President Donald Trump meant when he made remarks linking the recently renegotiated South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement with talks on denuclearizing North Korea. South Korean President Moon Jae-in's office said Friday, March 30, 2018, that it is working through various channels to find out the President Trump's intentions following his speech in Ohio. Korean letters on the screen read: "Thawing Korean Peninsula." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)
FILE - In this March 22, 2018, photo, President Donald Trump speaks before he signs a presidential memorandum imposing tariffs and investment restrictions on China in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, in Washington. South Korea says it is trying to find out what President Donald Trump meant when he made remarks linking the recently renegotiated South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement with talks on denuclearizing North Korea. South Korean President Moon Jae-in's office said Friday, March 30, 2018, that it is working through various channels to find out the President Trump's intentions following his speech in Ohio.(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea is trying to find out what President Donald Trump meant when he made remarks linking the recently renegotiated South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement with talks on denuclearizing North Korea.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in's office said Friday that it is working through various channels to find out the President Trump's "true intentions" following his speech in Ohio, where he said he may hold up the free trade deal until after an agreement is reached with North Korea. Trump said the trade deal with South Korea, which is the first major trade agreement reached by his administration, is "a very strong card and I want to make sure everyone is treated fairly."

Trump did not explain what leverage he thought the U.S. would wield by holding up the trade deal with South Korea. His comments raised concern in South Korea since Seoul views the revamped bilateral free trade deal as separate from the North Korean issue.

His comments were made hours after two Koreas agreed to hold a summit on April 27 ahead of a possible meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Separately on Wednesday, top trade negotiators from South Korea and the United States released a joint statement noting that the two sides had agreed in principle on general terms for modifying their six-year-old trade pact. The statement said the talks represented "important progress in improving Korea-U.S. trade and economic relations, based on their strong and enduring security relationship."

Final details are still under discussion, it said.

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