January 5, 2018 | By: ANA SWANSON-
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration and South Korean officials will meet on Friday to begin formally renegotiating a free-trade pact that has served as a source of conflict between the two allies. The meeting comes at a moment of heightened tension in the Korean Peninsula and unease in the broader region.
President Trump has called the six-year old agreement a “horrible deal” for the United States and pledged to rework it. Over a series of meetings in the coming months, American negotiators hope to further open Korean markets to American cars and agricultural products and smooth irritants in the trading relationship.
But clashes over trading terms could risk dividing the longstanding allies at a critical time, as North Korea seeks to drive a wedge between South Korea and Mr. Trump, analysts say. North Korea restored a cross-border telephone hotline with its southern neighbor on Wednesday, just one day after the American president said he has a “much bigger” nuclear button than the one North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, boasted of having on his desk.
“The reality is, it’s a fraught moment between the U.S. and South Korea in terms of their alliance,” said Sue Mi Terry, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Renegotiating the deal at this juncture “is going to widen the gap between Seoul and Washington,” she said.
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