WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The threat posed by North Korea was a key topic in phone calls between US President Donald Trump and the leaders of China and Japan, along with trade issues, the White House said.
Mr Trump spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ahead of expected meetings with the leaders of Asia’s two biggest economies at a Group of 20 nations summit in Germany later this week.
“Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a denuclearised Korean Peninsula,” the White House said of Mr Trump’s call with Mr Xi from his resort property in Bridgewater, New Jersey, where he is spending a long weekend.
“President Trump reiterated his determination to seek more balanced trade relations with America’s trading partners,” it added.
Mr Trump has become increasingly frustrated with China’s inability to rein in North Korea, and the reference to trade was an indication the one-time New York businessman may be ready to return to his tougher-talking ways on business with Beijing after holding back in hopes it would put more pressure on Pyongyang.
Mr Trump and Mr Xi discussed the “peace and stability of the Korean peninsula”, China’s Foreign Ministry said, without elaborating.
Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang later told a daily briefing that the United States was “very clear” about China’s position on North Korea. Mr Geng did not elaborate on what Mr Xi told Mr Trump about North Korea.
“Negative factors” have affected Sino-US relations and China has already expressed its position to the United States, Mr Xi told Mr Trump, according to a read-out of a telephone call between the leaders carried by the ministry.
The ministry said Mr Trump told Mr Xi the US government would continue to follow a “one China” policy, under which Washington acknowledges the Chinese position that there is only one China and Taiwan is part of it, and that this position had not changed.
On Thursday, the US targeted a Chinese bank and sanctioned Chinese individuals and a firm for dealing with North Korea and approved a $1.42 billion arms deal with Taiwan – decisions that angered Beijing.
And on Sunday a US warship sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea claimed by China, drawing a rebuke from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Mr Trump’s separate conversations with the two Asian leaders followed White House talks with South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, last week in which the US leader called on Asian powers to implement sanctions and demand North Korea “choose a better path and do it quickly”.
Mr Trump and Mr Abe, in their call, reiterated their commitment to increase pressure on North Korea.
“They reaffirmed that the United States-Japan Alliance stands ready to defend and respond to any threat or action taken by North Korea,” the White House said in a statement.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary told a news conference the two countries and South Korea will have a trilateral summit at the G20 meeting, but he didn’t want to speculate.