President Trump is amping up pressure on China to diffuse North Korean aggressions, a leverage play that could force talks amid calls for a diplomatic solution to the high-stakes tensions.
In a CBS “Face the Nation” interview that aired yesterday, Trump touted his warm relations with Chinese President Xi Jinping as “something very special, something very different than we’ve ever had,” though still sounding a note of skepticism.
“I don’t think they want to see a destabilized North Korea. I don’t think they want to see it,” Trump said. “They certainly don’t want to see nuclear on — from their neighbor. They haven’t liked it for a long time. But we’ll have to see what happens … we’ll find out whether or not President Xi is able to affect change.”
Trump said his decision not to pressure China on currency manipulation, as he had promised on the campaign trail, was part of the calculation.
“Can you imagine if I say, ‘Hey, by the way, how are you doing with North Korea? Also, we’re going to announce that you’re a currency manipulator tomorrow,’ ” Trump said. “North Korea is maybe more important than trade. Trade is very important. But massive warfare with millions, potentially millions of people being killed? That, as we would say, trumps trade.”
Bradley Schreiber, president of Homeland Security Solutions and a former senior adviser for the Department of Homeland Security, said the White House “is clearly trying to leverage its newfound relationship with China.”
“The reality is that for a diplomatic solution to occur, China has to be part of that solution, whether directly or indirectly, whether they help facilitate or they are a part of a multilateral convention,” Schreiber said. “I think the president is expressing, based on his actions, that the old way of doing things has not succeeded, and we need to try new ways of approaching this very critical national security issue.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. is working with South Korea to install a roughly $1 billion Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system to protect it from North Korea ballistic launches.
Trump said last week that South Korea should pay for the system, but National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster told “Fox News Sunday” yesterday the United States is on the hook, framing Trump’s remarks as part of his broader call to have “appropriate burden sharing” in international security matters.
“What I told our South Korean counterpart is until any renegotiation, that the deals in place, we’ll adhere to our word,” McMaster said.