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Trump, South Korea PM reaffirm alliance to defend against North Korea

Trump and acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn spoke of strengthening combined defense capabilities against North Korea provocations.

By Elizabeth Shim
Trump, South Korea PM reaffirm alliance to defend against North Korea
U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korea’s Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn agreed the U.S. missile defense system THAAD should be deployed as soon as possible. China may have been retaliating against Seoul in response to the decision. File Photo courtesy of U.S. Missile Defense Agency

Jan. 30 (UPI) -- U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korea's acting president and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn exchanged a phone call on Monday, Seoul time, during which the two sides reaffirmed the bilateral alliance but did not discuss pending issues that include increased military burden sharing.

According to South Korean news service News 1, Trump told Hwang the United States would always be with Seoul "100 percent" in their joint defense against North Korea provocations.

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During the phone exchange, which lasted for about 30 minutes on Monday morning, both sides agreed they are ready to develop a "strong and steadfast" alliance.

Since being sworn into office, Trump has exchanged phone calls with other Asian leaders: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday and Japan's Shinzo Abe on Saturday.

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Trump and Hwang also spoke about the upcoming visit of new U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis to South Korea on Feb. 2.

The U.S. president reportedly said he looks forward to strengthening the combined defense capabilities of the two countries during the Mattis visit.

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Trump and Hwang were also in concurrence regarding the deployment of the U.S. missile defense system THAAD on the peninsula.

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Seoul and Washington had agreed to deploy THAAD in July, but since then China has been suspected of imposing trade embargoes on South Korean companies and K-Pop artists.

A newly formed conservative political party in South Korea welcomed news of the phone call on Monday, South Korean newspaper Asia Business reported.

A bilateral FTA between the United States and South Korea was not discussed, and some South Koreans are concerned the trade deal could be scrutinized in the face of the recent U.S. withdrawal from the multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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Kim Jong-hoon, a former lawmaker with the conservative Saenuri Party, said the FTA has proved to be mutually beneficial for both sides.

U.S. imports' share of the South Korea market has risen from 8.5 to 11 percent since the signing of the FTA in 2011, and South Korea's share of the U.S. market has increased from 2.6 to 3.4 percent, according to Kim.

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