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China claims Trump ‘distorting the facts’ on North Korea influence

August 30, 2018

China pushed back Thursday against President Trump’s allegation that Beijing is playing the spoiler role in North Korea to gain more leverage in bare-knuckle trade talks with Washington.

In a barrage of tweets Wednesday evening, Mr. Trump reiterated a recent allegation that China is so frustrated by the trade negotiations that it’s pressuring North Korea not to cooperate with Washington’s demand that Pyongyang abandon its nuclear weapons.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying bristled at the allegation during a press briefing in Beijing Thursday, telling reporters that “no one could be better at irresponsibly distorting facts that the U.S.”

“What logic is this?” Ms. Hua asked rhetorically. “It’s really beyond understanding for ordinary people.”

She went on to suggest U.S. officials not Chinese or North Korean are to blame for “setbacks and difficulties” occurring in the Trump administration’s pursuit of breakthrough nuclear diplomacy with Pyongyang.

Washington “should try to find out the reason in itself and reflect upon that, rather than flip-flop and shift blames on others,” Ms. Hua said. “The U.S. tries to shift blames in one way or another, but sorry, we won’t and cannot take the blames.”

Her comments were just the latest in a back-and-forth over the North Korea issue that’s been going on for years between U.S. and Chinese officials. The Trump administration, like the former Obama administration before it, has devoted significant energy to trying to convince China North Korea’s closest ally and biggest trading partner to exert its influence in a way that helps Washington pressure Pyongyang to denuclearize.

Analysts say the Trump administration’s efforts have struggled over the past year as tension with Beijing has risen over Mr. Trump’s demand for fairer U.S.-China economic relations and specifically a reduction in America’s nearly $400 billion annual trade deficit with China.

Recent months have seen both sides level billions in tariffs on goods moving between the two nations amid fears of an all-out U.S.-China trade war.

In his tweets Wednesday, Mr. Trump claimed that “North Korea is under tremendous pressure from China because of our major trade disputes with the Chinese government.”

“China is providing North Korea with considerable aid, including money, fuel, fertilizer and various other commodities,” the president added. “This is not helpful!”

But the president also went claim his personal “relationship and bond” with Chinese President Xi Jinping is “very strong,” and that the current U.S.-China trade disputes “will be resolved in time.”

China has offered its own brand of mixed messaging on the North Korea and trade issues over recent days through a series of editorials in the English-language version of Global Times an official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party.

While one published Thursday asserted that “China is more than willing to push forward with denuclearization” on the Korean peninsula, an editorial last weekend highlighted the power Chinese officials feel they have over the situation and suggested a direct correlation between U.S.-China trade talks and delicate nuclear diplomacy.

“China has been facilitating talks between the U.S. and North Korea. Without China’s support, the two could not have been where they are today,” the editorial said. “China is willing to continue to play this role and lay the foundation for denuclearization. But Washington should realize that it is impossible for China to do what it used to when the U.S. acts peremptorily against China on trade issues.”

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