President Donald Trump on Tuesday dismissed speculation that he was backing away from his tough talk on China, despite demonizing the country repeatedly during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“I didn’t soften my stance,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News.
Still, Trump dubbed Chinese President Xi Jinping a “terrific person,” saying the two leaders spent hours together and had “good chemistry.”
Trump said he was working with the Chinese president to confront North Korea’s attempts to develop an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile capable of reaching the US, saying Xi “understands it’s a big problem.”
“What am I going to do? Start a trade war with China while in the middle of him working on a bigger problem, frankly, with North Korea?” Trump said. “So, I’m dealing with China with great respect. I have great respect for him.”
He added: “Now, we’ll see what he can do. Now, maybe he won’t be able to help. That’s possible. I think he’s trying. But, maybe he won’t be able to help, and that’s a whole different story. But, we’ll see what happens.”
Trump repeated his criticism of critics who pointed out that he changed his position on China, saying his policies toward the country were successful and resulted in persuading China to take a harder line on North Korea.
“What am I going to do? In the middle of him talking with North Korea I’m going to hit them with currency manipulation?” Trump said. “This is the fake media that just does a number.”
During the 2016 election, Trump frequently complained that Chinese leaders were outmaneuvering the US to increase exports and pledged to label China a currency manipulator on his first day in office, a move he subsequently did not take.
The Department of the Treasury under the new administration declined to label the country a currency manipulator last week.
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