WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump denounced China’s trade with North Korea on Wednesday and cast doubt on whether Beijing is working with Washington to counter the North Korean nuclear threat.
“Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40 pct in the first quarter. So much for China working with us - but we had to give it a try!” Trump said in a Twitter post.
Even before Pyongyang said on Tuesday it had successfully test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, Trump recently suggested he was running out of patience with China’s modest steps to pressure North Korea and has been considering moving ahead on trade actions.
Analysts said the latest missile could put all of the U.S. state of Alaska in range for the first time.
Trump posted the tweet shortly before leaving for Warsaw, Poland, on his way to a Group of 20 summit in Germany on Friday and Saturday.
“We’re going to do very well,” Trump said in response to shouted questions as he left the White House.
During his trip, Trump will meet for the second time with Chinese President Xi Jinping, with whom he has expressed frustration for failing to use enough leverage to curb North Korea’s nuclear program.
Trump spoke with Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - the leaders of Asia’s two largest economies - about the threat posed by North Korea, the White House said on Sunday.
China is North Korea’s largest trading partner and ally.
Data released in April by Beijing showed China’s trade with North Korea grew 37.4 percent in the first quarter this year from the same period in 2016, according to reports in the New York Times and Financial Times. Chinese exports surged 54.5 percent and imports increased 18.4 percent, according to the reports citing China’s General Administration of Customs.
However, that data reflects only one month of China’s Feb. 26 halt of North Korean coal imports, which has crimped Pyongyang’s ability to raise hard currency through exports.
The General Administration of Customs said on June 23 that imports of North Korean goods in May fell by more than 30 percent from a year ago, the latest sign that China’s ban on coal purchases from the isolated country continues to curb trade between them.
The world’s second-largest economy bought goods worth $123.8 million in May from North Korea, down 31 percent from a year ago and third lowest on record from June 2014, according to data from the Chinese agency.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Jonathan Oatis