Trump: China will solve North Korea problem ‘if they want to’

President Donald Trump suggested Friday that China could “solve the North Korean problem” if Beijing wanted to.

“China is very much the economic lifeline to North Korea so, while nothing is easy, if they want to solve the North Korean problem, they will,” the president tweeted Friday morning.

Trump called North Korea and its leader Kim Jong Un a “menace” on Thursday but said he has “great respect” for Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump met with Xi for a two-day summit at the president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, earlier this month, and the two later spoke by phone about North Korea, among other issues.

“I really have confidence that the president will try very hard. We don’t know whether or not they’re able to do that, but I have absolute confidence that he will be trying very, very hard,” Trump told reporters at a joint news conference Thursday alongside Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Trump has backed off his campaign pledge to label China a currency manipulator, citing the risk of such a move hindering talks on North Korea. And he’s said he’s leveraged trade with China to persuade Beijing to rein in North Korea, which he tweeted this month “is looking for trouble” by saber-rattling.

“I actually told him, I said, ‘You’ll make a much better deal on trade if you get rid of this menace or do something about the menace of North Korea,’ because that’s what it is,” Trump said Thursday, referring to a past conversation with Xi. “It’s a menace right now. So we’ll see what happens.”

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