President Donald Trump said Thursday that he may "hold up" a major trade deal the U.S. recently made with South Korea, in order to use the agreement as leverage in any upcoming negotiations with North Korea over Pyongyang's nuclear program.
"I may hold it up until after a deal is made with North Korea," Trump said of the trade pact, announced Tuesday. "Because it's a very strong card, and I want to make sure everyone is treated fairly."
It was unclear how holding up the trade deal with South Korea, one of America's closest allies, could aid the U.S. in its dealings with North Korea.
Earlier this month, the president accepted an invitation, conveyed by South Korean officials, to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by the end of May.
"We're moving along very nicely with North Korea. Certainly the rhetoric has calmed down just a little bit, wouldn't you say?" Trump said to an audience in Ohio.
"And we'll see how it all turns out. If it's no good, we're walking, and if it's good, we will embrace it," Trump said. "South Korea has been wonderful, but we're probably going to hold that deal up for a little while, and see how it all plays out."
U.S. diplomats have emphasized that any tete-a-tete between the president and North Korean leader Kim would be simply a meeting, and not a formal negotiation on North Korea's weapons program or its long-term status in the global trade and banking systems, where it remains under heavy sanctions.
But Trump suggested in tweets Wednesday that there was a "good chance" of achieving "peace and denuclearization" with Kim.
The deal outlined by U.S. officials on Tuesday would effectively cut South Korea's steel exports to the U.S. by about 30 percent. It would also extend for another 20 years the current tariffs on South Korean trucks, originally set to expire in 2021. The two nations also reached a side deal aimed at deterring competitive currency devaluation by South Korea.
"We've redone it, and it's going to level the playing field on steel and cars and trucks coming into this country," Trump said Thursday.
The president was giving remarks at an event to push his infrastructure plan.