BEIJING - US President Donald Trump's order to his top trade adviser to investigate supposedly unfair Chinese trade practices will "poison" relations between the two countries, a Chinese state-run newspaper said on Monday.
Trump will later on Monday issue the order to determine whether to investigate Chinese trade practices that force US firms operating in China to turn over intellectual property, senior administration officials said on Saturday.
The move, which could eventually lead to steep tariffs on Chinese goods, comes at a time when Trump has asked China to do more to crack down on North Korea's nuclear missile programme as he threatens possible military action against Pyongyang.
Trump has said he would be more amenable to going easy on Beijing if it were more aggressive in reining in North Korea.
In an editorial, the official China Daily said it was critical the Trump administration doesn't make a rash decision it will regret.
"Given Trump's transactional approach to foreign affairs, it is impossible to look at the matter without taking into account his increasing disappointment at what he deems as China's failure to bring into line the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," the English-language paper said.
"But instead of advancing the United States' interests, politicising trade will only acerbate the country's economic woes, and poison the overall China-US relationship."
An administration official has insisted diplomacy over North Korea and the potential trade probe were "totally unrelated", saying the trade action was not a pressure tactic.
The China Daily said it was unfair for Trump to put the burden on China for dissuading Pyongyang from its actions.
"By trying to incriminate Beijing as an accomplice in the DPRK's nuclear adventure and blame it for a failure that is essentially a failure of all stakeholders, Trump risks making the serious mistake of splitting up the international coalition that is the means to resolve the issue peacefully," it said.
"Hopefully Trump will find another path. Things will become even more difficult if Beijing and Washington are pitted against each other."