President Donald Trump said Thursday he might use the revised U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement as "a very strong card" to get North Korea to denuclearize in his planned talks with dictator Kim Jong Un.
"I may hold it up until after a deal is made with North Korea," Trump told members of Local 18 of the Ohio Operating Engineers at their Apprenticeship and Training Center in Richland, near Cleveland. "Does everybody understand that?
"You know why, right?" Trump teased.
"It's a very strong card," he said. "I want to make sure everyone is treated fairly.
"We're moving along very nicely with North Korea. We'll see what happens.
"Certainly, the rhetoric has calmed down just a little bit, wouldn't you say?" Trump asked, referring to the barbs he and Kim traded over many months. "Would you say?
"We'll see how it all turns out."
The White House said Tuesday it had revamped the six-year-old trade agreement to give the U.S. wider access to South Korea's car market and to protect American manufacturers from the country's imports.
Trump had called the original Korea accord a job killer.
As a result, South Korea escapes America's new 25 percent tariff on imported steel, though it must accept quotas on steel exports equal to 70 percent of its average annual shipments to the United States between 2015 and 2017.
President Trump is expected to meet with Kim by May — and the North Korean leader secretly met with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week.
Xi told Trump in a letter that Kim pledged denuclearization of its arsenal.
Trump expressed hope Thursday that the session with Kim would prove successful.
"Maybe it will be good," he told the crowd. "Maybe it won't.
"If it's no good, we're walking. If it's good, we will embrace it.
"But it's going to be very interesting over the next period of time," Trump said, before returning to the Korean trade pact.
"South Korea has been wonderful, but we'll probably hold that deal up for a little while, see how it all plays out."
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