(ATTN: ADDS more remarks, background; SUBSTITUTES photo)
By Chang Jae-soon
WASHINGTON, July 1 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in said Saturday that any talk of renegotiation of the free trade pact between South Korea and the United States is "outside of the agreement" he reached in summit talks with President Donald Trump.
Moon made the remark during a meeting with South Korean correspondents in Washington, a day after the summit talks with Trump. Talk of renegotiation of the FTA spread widely after Trump said the two countries have already been renegotiating the deal, though a joint statement issued after the meeting made no mention of that.
"All you have to do is look at the content of the agreement (joint statement). The rest is outside of the agreement," Moon said during the meeting with the correspondents at the U.S. president's guest house, also known as Blair House, in response to a question about whether there has been any agreement on renegotiating the deal.
During and after the talks with Moon, Trump vowed to seek a new trade pact with South Korea, blaming the current deal for enlarging American deficits. At the start of the one-on-one talks with Moon, Trump even said the two countries "are renegotiating a trade deal right now."
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters later Friday that at Trump's direction, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer "is calling a special joint committee meeting to start the process of renegotiating and amending the deal."
According to Moon, U.S. officials talked about trade deficits the country has with the South, especially in the auto and steel industries. In response, South Korean officials said that even according to analysis by the U.S. Commerce Department, the deal has been working in a mutually beneficial manner, such as expanding the share of each other's market, he said.
The South also pointed out that the global trade volume decreased by 12 percent since the Korea-U.S. FTA took effect, but the Korea-U.S. bilateral trade volume increased by 12 percent, and that even though the U.S. has deficits in goods, it has surpluses in services, he said.
"We concluded the discussions with a counterproposal, and without agreement, that if there is still room for improvement, if you want to talk about non-tariff barriers, the two countries can establish a working-level task force to examine and analyze the effects of the FTA," Moon said.
On the deployment of the U.S. THAAD missile defense system, Moon said that Trump, other U.S. officials, and congressional leaders expressed full understanding of South Korea's point that the deployment should be done in accordance with due procedures.
After taking office in May, Moon ordered the suspension of the THAAD deployment until an environmental assessment is completed. That decision spurred doubts that it might be a precursor to reversing the decision on THAAD deployment altogether, even though officials assured there is no such intent.
"Including President Trump, other administration officials, members of the House and the Senate ... all said that it surely is a matter of course that we have to go through procedural legitimacy," Moon said. "This is a natural procedure required of a democracy, and it's the same with the U.S. Nobody raised objections."
On North Korea, Moon said Trump told him that conditions for reopening talks with the communist nation should depend on the evolving situation. Trump also said such conditions cannot help but be determined according to intuition and South Korea has better intuition about such conditions, according to Moon.
"One of such conditions could be a promise by North Korea that it won't undertake additional provocations. The release of American citizens can also be a condition, but it is desirable not to specify those conditions at the current stage," Moon said.
"President Donald Trump said this cannot help but be determined by intuition amid the evolving situation. He appeared to trust South Korea, saying the South must have better intuition as it's close (to North Korea)," he said. "It would be wise not to specify (such conditions)."
Still, Moon said that dialogue is certainly possible if the North promises to freeze its nuclear program.
"It's difficult to specify the right conditions for restarting dialogue, but what I have proposed is that if North Korea promises to freeze its nuclear program, it's possible to have denuclearization talks," he said. "A nuclear freeze would be the entrance of the dialogue and the exit would be complete dismantlement. We have to act simultaneously while going through various phases."
Asked if he discussed military options with Trump, Moon said the two sides agreed to seek a peaceful resolution.
Moon said that a solution to the North Korean nuclear issue should be different from the 2005 denuclearization deal reached in the six-party talks, known as the Sept. 19 Joint Statement, under which the North promised to give up its nuclear programs in exchange for diplomatic and economic concessions.
"The situation has become more grave than the time of the Sept. 19 Joint Statement. As North Korea's nuclear and missile programs have since progressed much, that kind of approach won't work. We have to devise a highly sophisticated strategy befitting the current situation," Moon said.
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