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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Trump says China making things 'much more difficult' with North Korea

China is accused of providing North Korea with considerable aid including money, fuel and fertiliser

US President Donald Trump insists he has a 'great' relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping but that China is complicating the US-North Korea relationship. AFP
US President Donald Trump insists he has a 'great' relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping but that China is complicating the US-North Korea relationship. AFP

United States President Donald Trump accused China of complicating Washington's relationship with North Korea by rendering its ally economic assistance, but Beijing dismissed this as "irrational and absurd".

Mr Trump's claim comes as talks with North Korea on its pledge to denuclearise are at a standstill. Washington is reported to have received a belligerent letter from Pyongyang which prompted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to cancel a planned trip to North Korea last weekend.

"China makes it much more difficult in terms of our relationship with North Korea," Mr Trump said at the White House on Wednesday, although he insisted his ties with Chinese President Xi Jinping were "great".

"Part of the North Korea problem is caused by the trade disputes with China," he said.

Mr Trump also remarked on his "fantastic relationship" with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, whom he met in Singapore in June.

He said he was not considering resuming joint military exercises with South Korea on the Korean Peninsula, drills which Pyongyang considers "provocative".

"A lot of people, like me, feel that the US is first in the world when it comes to twisting the truth, and irresponsible and absurd logic," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday.

"We hope the US can play a positive and constructive role in settling the issue just like the Chinese. To solve the problem, it should look at itself instead of shifting blame."

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Beijing is Pyongyang's sole major ally, and the main transit country for any goods entering the North. Mr Trump said that China — angered by US moves on trade — is no longer being as tough as it could be on North Korea.

"We know that China is providing North Korea with considerable aid, including money, fuel, fertiliser and various other commodities. This is not helpful!" he tweeted on Wednesday.

On the subject of military exercises, which the US suspended as a "good faith" measure following Mr Trump's summit with Mr Kim, the president said "there is no reason at this time to be spending large amounts of money on joint US-South Korea war games".

But he added these could resume if the need arose.

On Tuesday, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said the Pentagon was not planning to suspend any more military drills, but then he appeared to backtrack on Wednesday, insisting "no decisions" had been made.

Mr Trump also reiterated his wish to fundamentally alter the trade status quo between the US and China, the world's top two economies.

He said he needed to take a tough stance with Beijing on trade "because it was really not fair to our country," criticising his predecessors who "closed their eyes" to the issue.

In June, Mr Trump and Mr Kim pledged to work towards the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

But those efforts stalled several weeks ago, and last week, Mr Trump ordered Mr Pompeo to cancel a planned trip to Pyongyang.

Mr Pompeo said on Tuesday that Washington remains ready to engage "when it is clear that Chairman Kim stands ready to deliver on the commitments that he made at the Singapore summit to President Trump to completely denuclearise North Korea".

According to the Washington Post, Pyongyang sent Mr Pompeo a belligerent letter that prompted him to cancel the visit, though its precise contents were unknown.

US news site Vox meanwhile reported that President Trump at June's summit pledged to sign a declaration ending the Korean War, and now the two countries were in deadlocked over who will follow through on their commitment first.

On Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington believes "denuclearisation has to take place before we get to other parts," confirming that included such a declaration.