During a visit to Beijing next month, President Donald Trump will attempt to persuade China’s leader to do more to rein in North Korea, after having criticised the country for not taking more action on the issue.
In a bilateral meeting, Mr Trump will also urge President Xi Jinping to fully implement sanctions by the United Nations Security Council against Pyongyang and to take steps that go beyond that, an official told reporters.
Mr Trump will travel to Asia next month for a 12-day trip, during which he will visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. It will be his longest tour abroad as President to date.
Along with having a sit-down with the Chinese president, Mr Trump will also have bilateral meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korean President Jae-in Moon, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, a White House official confirmed.
The official said Mr Trump will likely not visit the Korean demilitarized zone, the heavily guarded strip of land that has divided North and South Korea for 64 years.
Mr Trump’s trip comes during a tense standoff between the US and North Korea over the latter’s continued development of its nuclear and ballistic weapons programme.
The UN Security Council unanimously voted in September to ratchet up sanctions on North Korea following the regime’s sixth and largest nuclear test, although the penalties fell short of the sweeping sanctions the Trump administration had demanded.
Both Russia and China, North Korea’s main economic ally, had opposed the US’s call for an oil embargo and other far-reaching sanctions.
The new penalties include a ban on the sale of natural gas to North Korea and limits the amount of refined petroleum sales to the country to two million barrels per year. China supplies most of North Korea's crude oil.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has warned that China could face further sanctions from the US if it does not abide by the new UN sanctions placed on Kim Jong-un’s regime.
Mr Trump has said repeatedly that he is “disappointed” in China for not doing more to help control North Korea.
In August, China’s state media hit back, blasting Mr Trump for his “emotional venting” on Twitter.
“Trump is quite a personality, and he likes to tweet,” said Xinhua, China’s official news agency, in an editorial displayed on Chinese news websites. “But emotional venting cannot become a guiding policy for solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula,” it said, referring to the divided Korean Peninsula.
In the past, Chinese diplomats have asserted that the US and its allies should not depend so much on China to ease tensions created by North Korea’s growing nuclear weapons and missile capabilities.
The US and North Korea “hold the primary responsibility to keep things moving, to start moving in the right direction,” Ambassador Liu Jieyi said at a news conference to mark the end of China’s July term in the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council.
Mr Trump has suggested that if China does do more to help rein in North Korea, he may change his views on trade between Americans and the Chinese – a topic which he has constantly said he will do something about.
“We lose hundreds of billions of dollars a year on trade with China,” Mr Trump said in August, referring to the large US-China trade deficit, which he has repeatedly railed against. “They know how I feel. It’s not going to continue like that. But if China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade, a lot differently toward trade.”
A White House official said Mr Trump will also try to pressure Mr Xi next month to ease what Washington views as unfair trade practices.
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