Trump praises China for helping on North Korea

WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump praised China for its help in pressuring North Korea, while defending his softening stance on trade and other issues with the Asian giant, in an interview that aired Tuesday.

In the comments to Fox News, Trump cited the strength of his newfound relationship with President Xi Jinping in explaining why he has dropped his past criticism of China.

"Now, what am I going to do? Start a trade war with China while in the middle of him working on a bigger problem, frankly, with North Korea?" he said.

"So, I'm dealing with China with great respect. I have great respect for him. Now, we'll see what he can do."

"What am I going to do? In the middle of him talking with North Korea I'm going to hit them with currency manipulation? This is the fake media that just does a number," he said, speaking Monday on the sidelines of the annual White House Easter egg roll.

Read also: Trump's grandkids serenade Xi Jinping with Chinese song, poetry

"Think of it. He's working so nicely. Many coal ships have been sent back, fuel has been sent back. They're not dealing the same way. Nobody's ever seen it like that. Nobody's ever seen such a positive response on our behalf from China."

The turning point in Trump's relationship with China appears to have come when he met with Xi at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on April 6-7.

During the US presidential campaign, Trump harshly attacked Beijing as a currency manipulator and threatened to slap 45 per cent tariffs on Chinese imports.

Since taking office, however, US tensions with North Korea have soared amid a drumbeat of missile tests and fears Pyongyang may be readying a sixth nuclear test.

Read also: 'Behave,' Trump warns North Korea's Kim Jong-Un

When asked if he had ruled out some sort of military strike against North Korea, Trump said he did not wish to reveal his plans.

"I don't want to telegraph what I'm doing or what I'm thinking," he said.

"I hope there's going to be peace, but they've been talking with this gentleman (Kim Jong-un) for a long time. You read (Bill) Clinton's book and he said 'Oh, we made such a great peace deal' and it was a joke. You look at different things over the years with President Obama. Everybody has been outplayed. They've all been outplayed by this gentleman and we'll see what happens."

US experts believe that only China has sufficient economic and political leverage to restrain Pyongyang's drive to develop a long-range missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead.