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Sino-US relations

Trump again urges China to rein in North Korea, says ‘I really like President Xi’

Trump tweeted Tuesday that while he appreciates China’s efforts, ‘it has not worked out’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 June, 2017, 11:37am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 June, 2017, 11:37am

US President Donald Trump said he wished China would offer “a little more help” in applying pressure to North Korea.

At a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa he said: “I wish we would have a little more help with respect to North Korea from China. But that doesn’t seem to be working out.”

Trump’s evening in Iowa began with a tribute to former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, whom he had just appointed the United States’ ambassador to China.

He hailed Branstad, the longest-serving governor in the nation’s history and an early Trump backer, as “a legend” and “one great man.”

“We have a great relationship with China and I really like President Xi,” Trump said as he stood beside Branstad at an Iowa community college.

Trump has not elaborated on what might happen next if China, by far the North’s most important trading and diplomatic partner, is out of ideas.

Trump tweeted Tuesday that while he appreciates China’s efforts, “it has not worked out.”

In Beijing, officials insisted they have not given up hope of influencing Pyongyang.

“To resolve the Korean peninsula nuclear issue, China has been making unremitting efforts and we have been playing an important and constructive role,” said foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, while stressing China was not the “focus and the crux” of the crisis.

Trump’s comments came as United States pressed China to exert more economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea to help rein in its nuclear and missile programmes during a round of high-level talks in Washington on Wednesday.

The talks at the State Department with State Councillor Yang Jiechi and People’s Liberation Army Chief of Joint Staff Fang Fenghui were part of the new US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, a forum aimed at addressing key disputes between the world’s two largest economies, as well as security issues where they can work together.

The meeting came days after American college student Otto Warmbier died after being returned from North Korea in a coma.

The death of Warmbier this week, after his release from 17 months of imprisonment in Pyongyang, has further complicated Trump’s approach to North Korea, his top national security challenge.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China must “exert much greater economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime if they want to prevent further escalation in the region.” Mattis echoed that, saying China “continues to work these issues.”

Their remarks were a departure from a Twitter posting on Tuesday in which Trump suggested the US was moving on to other options to confront North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s regime.

“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out,” Trump wrote.

“At least I know China tried!”

Tillerson said Trump would make a state visit to China this year, and Mattis said both sides agreed to expand military-to-military ties, signalling the new administration’s determination to continue efforts to improve relations between the world’s two largest economies, despite frustration over North Korea.

Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse