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International relations

Trump, Moon see different paths to same goal on North Korea

US president seeks renegotiation of 'horrible' trade deal with South

SOTARO SUZUKI and TSUYOSHI NAGASAWA, Nikkei staff writers | North Korea

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in essentially agreed Friday to use all available options to address North Korea's nuclear and missile development, despite advocating different approaches, while Trump proposed reworking a bilateral free trade agreement.

"We're going to be discussing two things mostly," Trump told Moon during their first meeting at the White House. The first, he said, was North Korea, for which Washington has "a very, very strong, solid plan."

The American president went on to say that the second topic would be trade, because "we want to make a deal that's fair for the United States and fair for South Korea." He bemoaned the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea, saying "we cannot allow that to continue."

The bilateral trade deal that took effect in 2012 has been a sore spot for Trump, who has blasted it as "horrible." The two leaders discussed a new agreement Thursday, according to a tweet by Trump during a dinner with Moon that evening.

Moon called the summit an opportunity for the two sides to reaffirm their progress toward a great alliance. He made no direct mention of the trade pact.

As for North Korea, Washington and Seoul agree on the end goal of getting Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons, a view expected to be reflected in the joint statement to be issued after Moon's visit.

Where the two part ways is on how to get there -- a difference that could become a source of friction.

Trump is taking a hard line, looking to exert as much pressure as possible with the threat of military action to force North Korea to the negotiating table. The nuclear and missile programs of the "reckless and brutal" regime require a "determined response," the president declared at a joint news conference Friday. At the same time, he stressed the importance of the alliance between Washington and Seoul, calling it "a cornerstone of peace and security."

Meanwhile, Moon favors a gradual approach involving greater engagement with North Korea. He has offered unconditional dialogue with Pyongyang if it refrains from further provocations.

The two leaders agreed to use "both sanctions and dialogue in a phased and comprehensive approach," Moon said at Friday's news conference.

With disarmament still looking a long way off, Moon is focused on working toward a suspension of the North's nuclear program, he told South Korean reporters Wednesday on the flight to Washington. "If North Korea freezes its nuclear development, the U.S. and South Korea will need to consider whether to offer it something, and if so, what we should offer," he said.

Whether another controversial topic, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, came up at the summit remains unclear. Moon made clear in a meeting Thursday with top lawmakers from the House of Representatives that Seoul has no intention of going back on its agreement to host the advanced U.S. missile shield.

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