“I have great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea. If they are unable to do so, the U.S., with its allies, will! U.S.A.,” he tweeted in April.
Trump’s blunt tweet thrusts the typically off-the-cuff President — who cast himself as America’s greatest deal-maker during the 2016 campaign — into the perilously sensitive arena of international diplomacy.
His comment could signal he is ready to play hardball with the Chinese, or at least send a message to China that the United States feels they are not coming to the table with a strong hand because of their continued trade with North Korea. Senior diplomatic officials said the plan is to use trade as a weapon against China.
But the comment could just as easily weaken Trump’s hand with the Chinese, laying the American position bare and making it clear that the United States is prepared to deal with North Korea alone.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis will head up negotiations with China’s top diplomat, State Councilor Yang Jiechi.
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Trump at the President’s private Florida estate in April, a meeting that both leaders said warmed relations between the countries. (Trump later vividly recounted their interaction, including a detailed description of the “beautiful” chocolate cake
They spoke over the phone that month as well.
Following the meeting, China’s role was one of the administration’s main talking points in explaining North Korea.
“I think the President’s direct engagement with President Xi of China and the fact that now you’ve seen China turning back coal shipments from North Korea, making changes in the ability of people to travel by air from Pyongyang into China and other measures that they may well take in the future demonstrates the hands-on diplomacy that President Trump has brought to this,” Pence told CNN. “That’s what it will take.”
Trump also defended his decision not to label China a currency manipulator — something he pledged during the campaign — because of their work on North Korea.
“Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem,” Trump wrote in April. “We will see what happens!”