China says Trump's trade threat over N. Korea 'unacceptable'

Trump says he will discuss South Korea trade deal with senior advisers

The U.S. -Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), hammered out by Trump's Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, has been a frequent target for Trump, who in earlier interviews with Reuters threatened to withdraw from what he called an unequal deal in which Washington runs a trade deficit of nearly $28 billion with Seoul.

The Washington Post reported earlier on Saturday that Mr Trump had ordered his advisers to prepare plans to withdraw from the pact, and that the formal process to leave could start as soon as this week.

"It's very much on my mind", the US president said.

Republican Senator Ben Sasse, of Nebraska, warned against pulling out of the pact, saying he stands with farmers and ranchers, according to a statement on Saturday.

Scrapping the deal would also have profound geopolitical implications in the region, said Mr Michael Green, an Asia expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies who oversaw issues on the Korean Peninsula during the administration of former president George W Bush. -South Korean free trade deal with his advisers next week in a move that could see him pull out of the accord with a key US ally at a time of heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula.

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A statement by Mr. Lighthizer's office after the talks said the USA still has concerns about KORUS. Free Trade Agreement, or KORUS.

Trump criticized the agreement a year ago on the campaign trail, calling it "a bad" deal that hurts US industries and workers.

"One of the big reasons we made a decision to go forward with the agreement was to demonstrate to the South Koreans, North Koreans and Chinese that the USA was committed to this relationship for the long haul", Mr Green said.

Terminating a symbolic free trade pact with South Korea, however, would not be that easy as it could send the wrong message to North Korea about the alliance between South Korea and the United States at a time when North Korea has pushed brinkmanship over nuclear and missile programs to the limit.

Trump's main complaints with the five-year-old trade deal surround the rules of origin, particularly in the autos sector, one private-sector source close to the discussions said.

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"We believe he does not intend to terminate the deal right now", said Cho Sung-hwan, a manager at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

A broader coalition, known as the U.S. Food and Agriculture Dialogue for Trade, also urged its members on Saturday to furiously lobby public officials in favor of staying in the pact.

That the administration would even consider cancelling the agreement in the midst of the North Korean missile and nuclear crisis is astonishing, Mr Green said.

Lighthizer himself is deeply involved in the NAFTA talks and will be in Mexico on Monday and Tuesday for a meeting with Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland at the end of the second round.

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