POTOMAC FALLS, Va. -- President Donald Trump said Sunday that the United States is prepared to act alone if China does not take a tougher stand against North Korea’s nuclear program.
Mr. Trump’s comments -- in an interview with the Financial Times -- come just days before he is set to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago estate in South Florida. The two are expected to discuss a number of issues, including North Korea, trade and territorial disputes in the South China Sea during their meetings on Thursday and Friday.
“Yes, we will talk about North Korea,” Mr. Trump told the newspaper for a story that appeared Sunday on its website. “And China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don’t it won’t be good for anyone.”
Mr. Trump said trade was the incentive for China to work with the United States. Still, he said the United States could “totally” handle the situation in North Korea without China’s help.
Asked how he would tackle North Korea, Trump said: “I’m not going to tell you. You know, I am not the United States of the past where we tell you where we are going to hit in the Middle East.”
While China provides diplomatic and economic support to its neighbor, it claims that its influence over Kim Jong Un’s government is limited.
The relationship between the United States and China has been uncertain since Mr. Trump’s election. During his campaign he accused China of unfair trade practices and threatened to raise import taxes on Chinese goods and declare Beijing a currency manipulator, though it is unclear whether Mr. Trump will follow through with either threat.
Just last week, Mr. Trump tweeted that his upcoming meeting with the Chinese president will be “very difficult.” He wrote in part: “We can no longer have massive trade deficits and job losses. American companies must be prepared to look at other alternatives.” China’s immediate response was diplomatic, with Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang telling reporters Friday morning that “both sides look forward to a successful meeting so that a correct direction can be set for the growth of bilateral relations.”
Speaking to the Financial Times, Mr. Trump said he doesn’t “want to talk about tariffs yet, perhaps the next time we meet.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has also offered tough talk on China, saying on ABC’s “This Week” that the U.S. is pressing China to take a firmer stand regarding North Korea’s nuclear program.
U.N. resolutions have failed so far to deter North Korea from conducting nuclear and missile tests. Last year, North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and two dozen tests of ballistic missiles.
“They need to show us how concerned they are,” Haley said. “They need to put pressure on North Korea. The only country that can stop North Korea is China, and they know that.”