Trump urges Xi to work hard, fast on North Korea

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US President Donald Trump (left) shakes hand with China's President Xi Jinping at the end of a press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. AFP

BEIJING (Agencies) – Donald Trump urged Chinese leader Xi Jinping to work hard and act fast to help resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis during talks in Beijing yesterday, warning that “time is quickly running out”.

Speaking on the second day of a trip to Beijing marked by pomp and pageantry, Mr Trump also decried China’s “one-sided and unfair” trade surplus with the United States but told Mr Xi “I don’t blame China”, as the two countries signed more than $250 billion in business deals.

Mr Xi hosted Mr Trump at the imposing Great Hall of the People, next to Tiananmen Square, for the main event of the US president’s five-nation tour of Asia.

While the two leaders exchanged pleasantries in keeping with their professed friendship – with Mr Trump calling Mr Xi a “very special man” – the former property magnate made clear that he expected China to do more to rein in North Korea.

“We must act fast. And hopefully China will act faster and more effectively on this problem than anyone,” Mr Trump said, while thanking Mr Xi for his efforts to restrict trade with Pyongyang.

“China can fix this problem easily and quickly, and I am calling on China and your great president to hopefully work on it very hard.”

“I know one thing about your president: If he works on it hard, it will happen. There’s no doubt about it.”

The US administration thinks China’s economic leverage over North Korea is the key to strong-arming Pyongyang into halting
its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.

Mr Xi said the two countries reiterated their “firm commitment” to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and the implementation of UN resolutions. He also repeated his plea for the issue to be resolved through negotiations.

Experts doubt China will take the kind of steps that Mr Trump wants, such as halting crude oil exports to the North. Beijing fears that squeezing Pyongyang too hard could cause the regime to collapse.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said there are signs sanctions are “creating some stress within the North Korean economy” but that Mr Xi told Mr Trump they could take
“a little while” to have an effect.

The South China Sea was also discussed yesterday.

“We had a frank exchange
here in China on maritime security issues and the South China Sea. The US position remains unchanged,” Mr Tillerson said. “We insist on upholding freedom of navigation, that claimants be consistent
with international law and that claimants should stop construction and militarisation of outposts in order to maximise prospects for successful diplomacy.”

Both Mr Xi and Mr Trump expressed support for the protection of peace and stability in the sea, China’s foreign ministry said. Both leaders also support the peaceful resolution and management of the dispute via talks and in accordance with “accepted international law”, it added.

“Both sides support the protection of freedom of navigation and overflight for all countries, in accordance with international law,” it said.

But Taiwan was the most important and sensitive issue in Sino-US ties, Mr Xi told Mr Trump.

Mr Trump upset China last December by taking a telephone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, shortly after he won election, the first call between US and Taiwan leaders since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition to China from Taiwan in 1979.

“The Taiwan issue is the most important, most sensitive core issue in China-US relations, and concerns the political basis of the China-US relationship,” the ministry paraphrased Mr Xi as telling Mr Trump.

China “hopes that the US side continues to scrupulously abide by the ‘one China’ principle, and prevents disturbances to the broader picture of China-US ties”, Mr
Xi added.

Mr Trump told Mr Xi the US government upheld and stuck to the “one China” policy, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.

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