In a Thursday interview, Trump expressed concern over North Korea’s continued development of ballistic missiles and the militarization of Beijing’s territories in the South China Sea. "I know exactly what's going on between China and North Korea and everybody else," he said, "I'm not liking it."
Claiming that Beijing could intervene in North Korea, "very easily if they want to," Trump said he wants China to influence Pyongyang, to rein in its military activities, especially those involving nuclear weapons.
Beijing has publicly called for Pyongyang’s denuclearization in the past, and has urged the increasingly isolated nation to return to the bargaining table, to ensure global security.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang responded to Trump, telling a news briefing, "We have said many times already that the crux of the North Korean nuclear issue is the problem between the United States and North Korea…We hope the relevant parties can shoulder their responsibilities, play the role the should, and together with China play a constructive role for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and for its denuclearization."
Geng also told Xinhua that the US overestimates China’s influence over North Korea. "The Trump White House needs to make the first move and talk to Pyongyang. The United States stands to lose nothing for trying this," he said.
Following another North Korean ballistic missile test, Beijing announced last week that would ban coal imports from Pyongyang. The Chinese Commerce Ministry said this was done in accordance with a UN resolution agreeing to levy sanctions against Pyongyang after the country detonated five nuclear weapons in 2016.
After the fifth detonation in September 2016, Hua Chunying, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, noted, "The core of the issue is the conflict between the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] and the US. It is the US who should reflect upon how the situation has become what it is today and search for a better solution. It is better for the doer to undo what he has done. The U.S. should shoulder its due responsibilities."
Pyongyang fired back after the announcement of the ban by Beijing, with the Korean Central News Agency accusing China of "dancing to the tune of the US while defending its mean behavior with such excuses that it was meant not to have a negative impact on the living of the people in the DPRK but to check its nuclear program."
Despite these developments Geng maintains that relations between the two Asian countries are still intact. "We are willing to work with North Korea to promote the stable and healthy development of relations," he said.