President Trump has said the United States is ready to act alone against North Korea’s nuclear program if China does not take a tougher stance, just days before he hosts Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago estate in South Florida.
Trump made the comments in a Financial Times interview posted Sunday on the newspaper’s website.
“We will talk about North Korea,” Trump said. “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.”
Trump added that the United States could “totally” handle the situation in North Korea without China’s help. While China provides diplomatic and economic support to its neighbor, it claims that its influence over Kim Jong Un’s government is limited.
However, Trump also made clear again that he won’t reveal his foreign policy strategy through the news media.
“I’m not going to tell you (my plan). 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,” he said.
Still, Trump attempted to make clear he’s not an isolationist opposed to alliances.
“I do believe in alliances,” he said in the interview. “I believe in relationships. And I believe in partnerships. But alliances have not always worked out very well for us.”
The relationship between the United States and China has been uncertain since 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 Trump will follow through with either threat.
Trump told the newspaper that he doesn’t “want to talk about tariffs yet, perhaps the next time we meet.”
Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, 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, the North 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.”
Asked what the U.S. would do if China doesn’t cooperate, Haley said: “China has to cooperate.”
Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, however, said he doubted that Beijing will cooperate.
“I’ve been working on the North Korea problem since 1994,” Carter said on ABC. “And we have consistently asked Chinese leaders … because they uniquely have the historical and the economic relationship with North Korea to make a difference.
“They haven’t used that influence, and so it’s hard for me to be optimistic with that,” he said.