Washington: President Donald Trump said he may delay a revamped trade deal the US reached with South Korea this week until after the nuclear confrontation with North Korea is resolved.

“I may hold it up until after a deal is made with North Korea," Trump said Thursday during a speech in Richfield, Ohio. “You know why? Because it’s a very strong card and I want to make sure everyone is treated fairly and we’re moving along very nicely with North Korea."

The new Korus agreement was reached as Trump has been planning to meet with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, later this spring. The president will need the support of the Seoul government in negotiations to get Kim to abandon his nuclear ambitions.

Trump’s statement on a delay took some White House officials by surprise, and the press office didn’t immediately respond to requests to clarify his intentions. The US Trade Representative’s office also had no immediate comment.

The South Korean embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the presidential Blue House in Seoul. An official at South Korea’s trade ministry in said on Friday that the government was trying to figure out what Trump’s comment meant. The official declined to be named as he isn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Moments before Trump suggested he would delay the renegotiated agreement, he hailed it as “a wonderful deal" and criticized the existing trade agreement with South Korea as “a horror show."

‘Political gesture’

“Trump’s remarks were a political gesture to show he is in control of both the North and South Korean issues, rather than a sign of dissatisfaction of the Korus negotiation," said Je Hyun-jung, a deputy general manger at the Korea International Trade Association. “Trump can’t sign off on the deal now anyway as it takes some time for the two countries to settle details of Korus, at least a month or two," she said.

The renegotiated trade deal, announced this week, doubled to 50,000 the number of cars each US automaker can sell in South Korea without meeting local safety standards. But in a briefing in South Korea, the country’s trade minister, Kim Hyun-chong, downplayed the significance of the concession, noting that no American company sells much more than 10,000 cars a year there and suggesting the current 25,000 ceiling isn’t an obstacle.

Under the terms of the new deal, the US also will extend a 25% tariff on pickup-truck imports until 2041. The tariff was set to expire in 2021 under the existing trade agreement, which came into force in 2012.

Meanwhile, South Korea agreed to limit its steel exports to the US to about 2.7 million tons of year, in exchange for relief from the 25% tariff Trump announced earlier this month.

South Korea also agreed to eliminate non-tariff barriers such as certain environmental testing requirements and recognize US standards on auto parts, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Bloomberg

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