President Trump has said the US will “solve” the nuclear threat from North Korea, with or without China’s help.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Donald Trump said: “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.”
Pressed on whether he thought he could succeed alone, President Trump replied: “Totally.”
Donald Trump was speaking ahead of a scheduled visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping 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,” he told the Financial Times.
Asked if he meant “one-on-one” unilateral action, Donald Trump said: “I don’t have to say any more.”
The president did not give any further details on what action he would take.
Donald Trump’s brief comments, published just days before the key meeting with Xi Jinping at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on April 6, are the latest in a series of warnings over North Korea’s nuclear development.
During a trip to Asia in March, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said pre-emptive military action was an option “on the table”.
A month earlier, Defense Secretary James Mattis warned that any use of nuclear weapons would be met with an “overwhelming” response.
However, President Trump is expected to put pressure on President Xi to do much more at their meeting this week – and he has implied that the issue of trade could be used as leverage.
Donald Trump told the Financial Times that “trade is the incentive. It is all about trade”. However, he said he did not plan to discuss tariffs during the meeting.
At the end of March, President Trump signed two executive orders to deal with the US trade deficit, reviewing current rules and foreign trade abuses.
White House officials insisted China was not the focus of his orders – but it is the largest source of the US trade deficit, accounting for about $347 billion a year, out of a total of $502 billion.
Donald Trump himself tweeted that “the meeting next week with China will be a very difficult one in that we can no longer have massive trade deficits”.
He has not said how he will negotiate trade with China while also pressing them to influence North Korea.
China is a historic ally of North Korea although ties have been strained in recent years. It has taken action in light of the reclusive nation’s latest missile tests.
In February, China banned coal imports from North Korea until the end of 2017, cutting a major source of cash income for Pyongyang.
Analysts say China has maintained its support for Pyongyang as it fears a complete collapse of the North Korean regime could lead to Korean unification, with US soldiers based in a country with a land border with China.
It is thought that China is also concerned at the prospect of millions of North Korean refugees entering its borders.