Trump suggests China might be interfering on North Korea

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President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together after their meetings at Mar-a-Lago, Friday, April 7, 2017, in Palm Beach, Fla. Trump was meeting again with his Chinese counterpart Friday, with U.S. missile strikes on Syria adding weight to his threat to act unilaterally against the nuclear weapons program of China's ally, North Korea. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump suggested on Monday that Beijing might be seeking to derail efforts aimed at denuclearizing North Korea, but added that he was confident that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would uphold a pact the two agreed on last month.

Washington and Pyongyang have presented differing views in recent days on progress on denuclearization following a Trump-Kim summit in June. On Monday, Trump suggested that China, North Korea’s chief ally, might be interfering in reaction to the Trump administration’s stance on US-China trade.

“I have confidence that Kim Jong Un will honor the contract we signed &, even more importantly, our handshake. We agreed to the denuclearization of North Korea,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “China, on the other hand, may be exerting negative pressure on a deal because of our posture on Chinese Trade-Hope Not!”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concluded two days of talks with North Korean officials in Pyongyang on Saturday and said denuclearization talks with North Korea would be difficult.

North Korea, however, issued a harsh characterization of the negotiations, raising questions about the future talks as US officials seek an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

Following the June 12 meeting with Trump in Singapore, Kim made a broad agreement to “work toward denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. But no details were announced on how or when the reclusive state would dismantle its nuclear program.

President Donald Trump voiced confidence Monday that North Korea’s leader would “honor” his commitment to denuclearize, despite Pyongyang’s accusation that the US is making “gangster-like” demands in negotiations.

It was Trump’s first public response since North Korea gave an angry send-off at the weekend to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after he visited the authoritarian nation amid growing skepticism that the North intends to give up its nukes.

Pompeo was seeking progress on the joint statement issued by Trump and Kim at their historic summit in Singapore in June. Pompeo characterized his talks with North Korean officials as productive, but the North’s foreign ministry blasted the discussions, saying the visit — the third by the top US diplomat since April — had been “regrettable.”

Trump responded to that setback with a tweet: “I have confidence that Kim Jong Un will honor the contract we signed &, even more importantly, our handshake. We agreed to the denuclearization of North Korea. China, on the other hand, may be exerting negative pressure on a deal because of our posture on Chinese Trade-Hope Not!”

The US and North Korea have actually yet to reach any agreement on the terms under which the North would relinquish its weapons programs, beyond the North’s commitment at the summit “to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Pompeo’s visit last week was intended to begin more detailed negotiations to flesh out the details.

The president’s comments on China appeared to reflect concern that US imposition of punitive tariffs on Chinese imports last week could make China less cooperative in pressuring the North over its nuclear and missile programs. China is North Korea’s traditional ally and main trading partner, and is key to maintaining sanctions pressure on Pyongyang.

Recent reports suggest that despite its commitment to denuclearize, the North has continued to expand infrastructure at nuclear and missile sites. Pompeo has vowed that sanctions would remain until Pyongyang follows through on Kim’s pledge to get rid of his atomic weapons.