US President Donald Trump held out the possibility on Sunday of using trade as a lever to secure Chinese cooperation against North Korea and said Washington might deal with Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs on its own if need be.
The comments, in an interview published on Sunday by the Financial Times, appeared designed to pressure Chinese President Xi Jinping ahead of his visit to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida this week.
“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,” Trump was quoted as saying, according to an edited transcript published by the newspaper.
Asked what incentive the United States had to offer China, Trump replied: “Trade is the incentive. It is all about trade.”
Asked if he would consider a “grand bargain” in which China pressured Pyongyang in return for a guarantee the United States would later remove troops from the Korean peninsula, the newspaper quoted Trump as saying: “Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.”
It is not clear whether Trump’s comments will move China, which has taken steps to increase economic pressure on Pyongyang but has long been unwilling to do anything that may destabilise the North and send millions of refugees across their border.
It is also unclear what the United States might do on its own to deflect North Korea from the expansion of its nuclear capabilities and from the development of missiles with ever-longer ranges and the capacity to deliver atomic warheads.