US President Donald Trump has described China as, in a sense, a threat to the world because of its military build-up, as it is carrying it out faster than anyone else. The American commander-in-chief was asked whether China poses a strategic threat to the US during a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the Oval Office. Speaking about China’s military ambitions, the US president noted that the Asian giant is using American money to do so, referring to the trade deficit between Washington and Beijing, something which he has repeatedly brought up amid the trade row with the country.
Trump accused his predecessors of letting China take $500 billion per year and more – a figure that he has voiced before, although some have called it into question. He also lambasted past US presidents for poor protection of American intellectual property, claiming that they allowed China to steal it. He concluded his rant by pledging not to let this happen again.
At the same time, Trump somehow cooled enthusiasm that the two countries are close to overcoming the trade dispute, as hope was beginning to arise after he temporarily lifted tariffs on some Chinese goods that were made subject to extra taxes last year. He said that there was no need to strike a trade deal with China before the 2020 election, and that he therefore was not under pressure to speed the negotiations up. He also noted that the US is making a lot of progress with regards to China, noting that Washington is raking in billions from import tariffs on China, with the total reaching $100 billion.
"I'm not looking for a partial deal. I'm looking for a complete deal”, Trump said.
The US has previously accused China of expanding its military reach in the disputed South China Sea region, including via the construction of military installations on artificial islands. China insists that its installations in the South China Sea serve defensive purposes and are being used primarily for scientific research and maritime safety programmes.
Tensions escalated last week after the US military sailed the guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer near the Paracel Islands (called Xisha Islands in Chinese) in a show of defiance against Beijing’s territorial claims in the region. The Chinese Defence Ministry stated that the warship had “trespassed into waters off China’s Xisha Islands without the permission of the Chinese government”.