Donald Trump hints at withdrawal from US-South Korea free trade deal

Donald Trump

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are at their highest point in years after a series of missile tests by Pyongyang.

In Seoul, the presidential Blue House spokesman confirmed that US President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in agreed to enhance the country's deterrence against North Korea by boosting its missile capabilities.

A USA official who studies North Korea's military and politics said it was too early to determine if the test supported the North's claim that it has succeeded in developing a thermonuclear weapon, "much less one that could be mounted on an ICBM and re-enter Earth's atmosphere without burning up". The agreement is "very much on my mind", Trump told a reporter from Reuters as he surveyed storm damage in Houston.

The White House alerted lawmakers that a notification of intent to withdraw could come as soon as Tuesday, the U.S Chamber of Commerce wrote in an "all hands on deck" note calling on members to lobby the administration to stay in the deal.

The largest US business lobby urged member companies to have senior executives call the White House and other administration officials to tell them not to proceed, and to enlist Republican governors in the effort.

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However, the threat of terminating the agreement could enable US trade negotiators to bargain for more favorable terms, including forcing South Korea to accept more USA imports.

The admiral commended the professionalism of South Korean air force personnel involved in an August 30 training mission that included live-fire weapons drops on the Pilsung Range by South Korean F-15K's, U.S. Air Force B-1B strategic bombers, and U.S. Marine Corps F-35B fifth-generation fighters, Gesecki said. Pacific Command and South Korea's defense minister, a Pacom spokeswoman said.

The North has undertaken a steady stream of missile tests, including launching a missile over Japan this week, an incident that drew strong condemnations from the United States and its allies, including South Korea.

A South Korean trade ministry official said the government has been "thoroughly preparing for all possibilities" and would negotiate with Washington with an open attitude. A White House official noted that U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer met with Korean officials in July to begin negotiations. Trump's top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, is also opposed to terminating the agreement, the Post said.

The administration has been in talks to make adjustments to the trade agreement known as KORUS.

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