US President Donald Trump threw out a strong trade pressure card against South Korea.
US President Trump delivered the US’s position on negotiations over a revision of the Korea-US free trade agreement (FTA), trade imbalance between South Korea and the United States and South Korea’s purchases of US military assets at exclusive and extended summit meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
US President Trump did as expected because he implemented his “two-track” diplomacy of strengthening alliance with Japan and addressing the US’s trade deficit with Japan in Japan, the first destination in his Asian trip.
"We appreciate South Korea's decision to purchase military facilities and weapons from the United States," President Trump said at the summit. “The trade deficit between South Korea and the US must be addressed."
"I look forward to having successful meetings today and tomorrow," President Trump said in his opening remark in the summit.
"South Korea, Japan and China are such a great region,” US President Trump added, clarifying his position that his Asian trip aimed to focus on resolving trade imbalance.
Regarding the negotiation of the South Korea-US FTA negotiations, "I hope there will be positive progress," US President Trump said. "There were many opportunities last year." This remark is effectively construed as suggesting that US President Trump was dissatisfied with South Korea’s focusing on the procedure ahead of the negotiation over the FTA revision. In the end, US President Trump meant that the revision should be accelerated.
President Trump expressed his will to correct the trade imbalance via the summit in US military base Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek of Gyeonggi Province. "I hope that we will create a lot of jobs in the US, which is one of the reasons I am here," he stressed.
Another pressure card that President Trump took out is US arms purchases by South Korea. At the South Korea-US summit, President Trump said, "I am grateful that the South Korean side has decided to purchase a lot of military facilities and weapons from the United States." This suggests that the South Korean government had been in contact with the Trump Administration for purchasing weapons from the US.
"It is very wise for South Korea to make massive investment in military facilities," US President Trump continued. The military facilities refer to Camp Humphreys that he visited on the day. His remark is interpreted as a reminder to prevent the Korean government from demanding a reduction of South Korea’s share of defense expenses for the USFK.
Camp Humphreys is a military base for the US 8th Army in Korea and at the same time, the largest overseas US army base. The base is considered a symbolic place that shows the solidarity of the South Korea-US alliance. The South Korean government paid 92% of the total cost for the land and the construction of the base. US President Trump had a somewhat optimistic view of the Korean peninsula. "The issue will be well addressed in the end because such issues have always been well solved. It has to be resolved," he said.
South Korean President Moon was originally scheduled to receive US President Trump at the official welcoming ceremony at Cheong Wa Dae (Korea’s White House). But South Korean President Moon changed his plan and went to Pyeongtaek in advance to wait for US President Trump. Diplomatic experts say that the South Korean President did that not only to honor the President of the United States who made a state visit to Korea in 25 years but also to show the strong South Korea-US alliance.