President Donald Trump said Wednesday that military action is not his “first choice” to address North Korea’s ongoing moves to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, hours after he spoke by phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“We’ll see what happens. We’ll see what happens,” Trump said when asked if he was still considering military action. “Certainly that’s not a first choice, but we’ll see what happens.”
Trump said that he believed he and Xi are on the same page following what he described as a “very, very frank and very strong phone call.”
“We will not be putting up with what’s happening in North Korea. I believe that President Xi agrees with me 100%,” Trump said from the White House’s South Lawn as he prepared to board Marine One.
China’s state media outlet, CCTV, said Wednesday that Xi expressed China’s commitment to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and called for a peaceful settlement during their phone call earlier in the day.
The phone call comes on the heels of Trump and his administration’s stern warnings to North Korea that further threats would be met with military force, including with a possible nuclear strike. Those warnings came after North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test.
Asked Sunday whether he was going to attack North Korea, Trump said simply: “We’ll see.”
Trump has repeatedly leaned on China in hopes that the North Korean neighbor and its biggest trading partner will exert its influence to bring a stop to the regime’s increasingly aggressive nuclear and ballistic missile activity, which have increased in the first months of Trump’s presidency.
The US president took that diplomatic pressure a step further on Sunday, warning that he was considering “stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.”
Any move to cut off trade with China would deal a crippling blow to both the US and Chinese economies, leaving experts to quickly dismiss Trump’s threat as empty rhetoric.
Still, Trump has signaled his frustration with China’s failure — or unwillingness — to rein in North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, who has stepped up his country’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity — leading to significant developments in the country’s capabilities, leading US officials to worry North Korea’s ballistic missiles could now reach large swaths of the US.