Sunday 22 October 2017

Trump: North Korea is a key issue in China talks

US First Lady Melania Trump (R) and President Donald Trump (2nd R) pose with Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd L) and his wife Peng Liyuan (L) upon their arrival to the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, on April 6, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
US First Lady Melania Trump (R) and President Donald Trump (2nd R) pose with Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd L) and his wife Peng Liyuan (L) upon their arrival to the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, on April 6, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Nick Allen in Washington

DONALD Trump will today tell China’s Xi Jinping that North Korea has become a “strategic liability” and demand trade concessions at a high stakes Florida summit between the leaders of the world’s two biggest economies.

Mr Xi arrived at Mar-a-Lago, Mr Trump’s holiday retreat, last night for the first face-to-face meeting between the two men.

The meeting comes after North Korea carried out a ballistic missile test on Wednesday, and as Mr Trump’s supporters demanded he fulfil his campaign promise to bring manufacturing jobs back from China.

Speaking hours before sitting down to dinner with Mr Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan, Mr Trump told Fox News: “We have not been treated fairly on trade, no president’s taken care of that the way they should have. And we have a big problem on North Korea, so we’re going to see what happens.”

Asked if he hoped to leverage China into action over North Korea’s nuclear programme, Mr Trump said: “I’ll tell you we’ll be in there pitching, and I think we’re going to do very well.”

A US official said the potential for ramping up “secondary sanctions” against Chinese banks and companies that do business with Pyongyang would be “an early topic of conversation”.

“The feeling on our side is that this problem has really now become urgent,” the official said. “Patience has basically come to an end. We need to do something proactive.”

A White House National Security Council official added: “It’s in Beijing’s interest. We think that North Korea long ago ceased to be a strategic asset for China. It is now quite clearly a strategic liability.”

The US trade deficit with China last year was $347bn (€326bn), more than two thirds of the entire US deficit.

During the election Mr Trump accused China of “stealing” US jobs and factories, and of being a currency manipulator.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans yesterday crushed a Democratic blockade of Mr Trump’s US Supreme Court nominee in a fierce partisan brawl, approving a rule change dubbed the “nuclear option” to allow for conservative judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation by today.

With ideological control of the nation’s highest court at stake, the Republican-led Senate voted 52-48 along party lines to change its long-standing rules in order to prohibit a procedural tactic called a filibuster against Supreme Court nominees. That came after Republicans failed by a 55-45 tally to muster the 60-vote super-majority needed to end the Democratic filibuster that had sought to deny Mr Gorsuch confirmation to the lifetime post.

The Senate’s action paved the way to confirm Mr Gorsuch by simple majority, with a vote expected this evening. Republicans control the Senate 52-48.

Confirmation of Mr Gorsuch would represent Mr Trump’s first major victory since taking office, after setbacks on healthcare legislation and his blocked order to prevent people from several Muslim-majority nations from entering the US.

Also yesterday, the Republican head of a congressional inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election said he would temporarily step aside from the probe because he is under investigation for disclosing classified information.

Devin Nunes, chairman of the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and an ally of Mr Trump, characterised charges that he made unauthorised disclosures of classified information as “entirely false and politically motivated.”

The surprise disclosure that Mr Nunes was under investigation injected new uncertainty into the wider Russia probe by his committee. The investigation is one of several in Congress examining whether Russia tried to influence the election in Mr Trump’s favour.

Russia denies the allegations, which Mr Trump also dismisses.

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