Trump’s Steel Tariffs Threaten to Derail South Korea Talks

Delegation heading to US likely has a new priority

South Korea’s diplomatic delegation, after a productive two-day visit to Pyongyang, is headed to the United States. But while the expectation had been to try to court the US into direct talks with North Korea, plans are likely to have changed.

That’s because President Trump’s tariff scheme, with the threat of global trade war that comes with it, is expected to be implemented any day, setting a 25% steel tariff, and a 10% aluminum tariff.  That’s a problem for a lot of nations.

But especially South Korea. The world’s 6th largest producer of steel, exports are a very important part of South Korea’s economy. The 25% US tariff threatens to greatly harm the South Korean economy, potentially doing substantial harm to US-South Korean relations.

That’s almost certain to make South Korea’s visiting envoys’ planned North Korea briefing very much a secondary issue, with economic interests in the face of the looming trade war of very immediate concern.

While this risks seeing push for direct US-North Korea talks lose momentum, it may also convince South Korea to stake out a more independent policy, working on improving ties with North Korea irrespective of US wishes.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of