Trade war, day 56: Trump ties North Korea to trade, again


At this point, U.S.-China trade relations seem locked in to a tense state for months to come, with only a stalemate or further escalation seeming likely at least through November.

But now, Donald Trump reminded us of a third option: the dispute could also become more complicated and wide-ranging. Last evening, he tweeted out a White House statement yesterday evening:

  • “President Donald J. Trump feels strongly that North Korea is under tremendous pressure from China because of our major trade disputes with the Chinese Government,” the statement began, going on to say,
  • “As for the U.S.-China trade disputes, and other differences, they will be resolved in time by President Trump and China’s great President Xi Jinping. Their relationship and bond remain very strong.”

There are a couple things to note about this statement:

  • This isn’t the first time Trump has connected the North Korea issue explicitly to the U.S.-China trading relationship.
    • In December 2017, he told the New York Times (paywall), “China…If they’re helping me with North Korea, I can look at trade a little bit differently, at least for a period of time. And that’s what I’ve been doing,”
    • On July 9, 2018, soon after the trade war officially started, he made the same accusation against China as now: that it “may be exerting negative pressure on a deal because of our posture on Chinese Trade.”
  • Most experts don’t see the connection. Robert Kelly, a professor of political science at Pusan National University in South Korea, has some reactions to President Trump’s statement, and experts generally don’t consider any country — even China — to have a decisive influence in North Korean foreign policy.
  • Xi Jinping has never said, or even indicated through subordinates, that he shares any particular affection for Donald Trump.
  • The Chinese Foreign Ministry outright mocked the implications of Trump’s statement, with a spokesperson describing it as “misrepresentative, irresponsible, nonsensical logic,” adding, “There really isn’t a normal person who is capable of understanding it,” the Asia Times reports.

Other trade war and related news:

Previously in SupChina’s trade war coverage:

Trade war, day 55: China only third priority after NAFTA, EU