Speaking just days before he is set to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago estate in South Florida, the US President insisted his country could “totally” handle the situation with the secretive Communist state.
“Yes, we will talk about North Korea,” Mr Trump told the Financial Times. “And China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don’t it won’t be good for anyone.”
He added that trade was the incentive for China to work with the US. The subject is likely to be one of a number of issues discussed by the leaders along with the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Asked how he would tackle North Korea, Trump said: “I’m not going to tell you. You know, I am not the United States of the past where we tell you where we are going to hit in the Middle East.”
He also refused to elaborate on whether a potential deal that would see the US remove troops from the Korean peninsula in exchange for Chinese pressure on its neighbour.
“Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.” he said. “That is all I am telling you.”
US defence secretary Jim Mattis condemns ‘reckless’ North Korea
While China provides diplomatic and economic support to its neighbour, it claims that its influence over Kim Jong Un’s government is limited.
But the US has become increasingly concerned about the Communist country, which is known to have nuclear capabilities and launched three failed missile tests last month.
The relationship between the United States and China has been uncertain since Mr Trump’s election.
During his presidential campaign he accused China of unfair trade practices, threatened to raise import taxes on Chinese goods and declare Beijing a currency manipulator, although it is unclear whether Trump will follow through with either threat.
Mr Trump told the newspaper that he doesn’t “want to talk about tariffs yet, perhaps the next time we meet.”
The US’s ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, also offered tough talk on China, telling on ABC News’ “This Week” that the US is pressing China to take a firmer stand regarding North Korea’s nuclear program.
UN resolutions have failed so far to deter North Korea from conducting nuclear and missile tests and last year, the country conducted two nuclear tests and two dozen tests of ballistic missiles.
“They need to show us how concerned they are,” Ms Haley said. “They need to put pressure on North Korea. The only country that can stop North Korea is China, and they know that.”
She added that “China has to cooperate.”
The US recently sanctioned 11 North Koreans and one North Korean coal company for their links to the country’s nuclear weapons program.
The American Treasury accused the individuals of working as agents of North Korea’s government in Russia, China, Vietnam and Cuba to provide financial support for previously sanctioned companies.