By Eli Watkins
WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Donald Trump has declared he would be willing to go it alone to restrain North Korea’s nuclear weapons program should China fail to change the situation, saying if Beijing won’t help solve it, then “we will” alone.
“China will either decide to help us with North Korea or they won’t,” Trump said in an interview published Sunday in the Financial Times. “If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone.”
Trump’s administration has repeatedly emphasized its high concern over the North Korean nuclear threat. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited China last month to press North Korea’s neighbor for help in mitigating that threat, and Trump is scheduled to host Chinese President Xi Jinping this week in the US, where he intends to bring the issue up.
On the campaign trail and since taking office, Trump has argued China is responsible for the continued nuclear proliferation in North Korea. He said in his Financial Times interview that he planned to talk with Xi about that situation and use trade as “the incentive” to talk China into fixing it.
Trump has repeatedly said he would take aggressive action against China to reduce the US trade deficit with the country. But if the talks with Xi don’t produce Trump’s desired result of getting Beijing to solve the North Korean nuclear problem, Trump said the US would take action.
“If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will,” Trump told the Financial Times.
Asked to clarify if he believed the US could solve the problem without China, Trump said: “totally.”
The North Korean government claimed to have tested a nuclear warhead in September, with South Korea’s weather service estimating the explosion to have about 10 kilotons of power, or about two-thirds the power of the bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima in World War II.
This year, Pyongyang has fired several missiles, and US defense officials told CNN that North Korea might be able to use a rocket engine it tested last month in an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Speaking in South Korea last month, Tillerson warned that the US would leave the option of military action on the table with regard to North Korea.