Politics

Trump: ‘China’s Trying to Help Us’ with North Korea

President stresses value of Beijing's help with Pyongyang amid worries of 'softening' on trade

President Donald Trump pushed back on the notion he is softening a tough campaign stance on Chinese economic practices even as he courts their help isolating an increasingly belligerent North Korea, during an interview that aired Tuesday on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.”

Trump raised alarm among much of his base after he hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago earlier in April. The president suggested he would be willing to forgo movement on reducing the nation’s huge trade deficit with China in exchange for help on the foreign policy front.

“We had a good chemistry together. He understands it’s a big problem. He’s working on it.”

“Solve the problem in North Korea, that’s worth having deficits,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal, “that’s worth having not as good a trade deal as I would normally be able to make.”

The White House subsequently announced it would not slap China with the label of being a currency manipulator, a tool to force Chinese economic reforms that Trump had repeatedly promised to invoke on the campaign trail.

“About China — some in the media have said that you’ve softened your stance on China,” asked Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt. “Has China helped with the relationship with North Korea?”

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Trump said reducing the trade deficit with China would remain a priority, but had to be approached differently due to foreign policy considerations.

“I didn’t soften my stance,” he said. “I’ve developed a really good relationship with [Xi]. I think he’s a terrific person — I got to know him really well over a two-day period,” Trump continued. “We had a good chemistry together. He understands it’s a big problem. He’s working on it.”

The president said reducing the United States’ trade deficit with China is more complex and nuanced when pressuring China to help with North Korea enters the mix.

“Now, what am I going to do? Start a trade war with China while in the middle of him working on a bigger problem, frankly, with North Korea?” Trump said. “So, I’m dealing with China with great respect. I have great respect for him. Now, we’ll see what he can do. Now, maybe he won’t be able to help. That’s possible. I think he’s trying. But, maybe he won’t be able to help, and that’s a whole different story. But we’ll see what happens.”

Trump also touched on the reversal of his campaign pledge to label China a currency manipulator.

“No, but somebody said ‘currency manipulation.’ What am I going to do? In the middle of him talking with North Korea I’m going to hit them with currency manipulation?” Trump said. “This is the fake media that just does a number. Think of it.”

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“[Xi’s] working so nicely. Many coal ships have been sent back, fuel has been sent back,” Trump said of initial Chinese actions to further isolate North Korea economically, “they’re not dealing the same way. Nobody’s ever seen it like that.”

“Nobody’s ever seen such a positive response on our behalf from China, and then the fake media goes ‘Donald Trump has changed his stance on China.’ I haven’t changed my stance.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told “Fox & Friends” Tuesday that he believed Trump “was exactly right” in his interview with Earhardt and was handling China “the right way.”

“We have moved the Chinese. Their visit in Mar-a-Lago moved the Chinese dramatically and Trump gets almost no credit for how the big shift is,” Gingrich said. “The Chinese have cut down on the amount of coal they’re buying from North Korea, and they actually replaced it with American coal. That’s the biggest single source of foreign exchange North Korea has. The Chinese have moved 125,000 troops to the border, and I think that the North Koreans have to feel increasingly isolated.”

During his own interview, the president insisted China is “trying to help us” deal with North Korea’s escalating aggression.

“China’s trying to help us. I don’t know if they are going to be able to or not, but do I want to start heavy, heavy trade or currency manipulation statements against someone who’s out there trying to stop what could be a very bad situation?” Trump asked. “You understand that … Nobody ever mentions it that way, though. But that’s ok. I think we’re doing really well. China has been helping, and other people have been helping, but I don’t know if that is going to work. It may have to be a different solution.”

Trump’s interview aired the day after Vice President Mike Pence delivered a speech at the border between North and South Korea in which he warned North Korea that “the era of strategic patience is over.” Pence also criticized China for sending mixed messages on North Korea and urged the country to more effectively “address the North Korean threat.”

The president also noted that North Korea “outplayed” former President Barack Obama during his tenure.

“I hope things work out well. I hope there’s going to be peace, but they’ve been talking with this gentleman for a long time,” Trump said, seemingly referring to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un and his family dynasty. “You look at different things over the years with President Obama. Everybody has been outplayed. They’ve all been outplayed by this gentleman.”

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