President Donald Trump expressed dissatisfaction on Thursday with the fact that China approved oil shipments to North Korea, saying he had “been soft” on the Asian country.
“I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war,” he said in an interview.
Earlier the same day, the president said on Twitter that China has been “caught” transporting oil to North Korea, which according to him prevents “a friendly solution” to the crisis regarding the regime’s nuclear program.
“Caught RED HANDED – very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!” his tweet read.
In the interview, he added that these shipments violated UN sanctions imposed on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, but China denied violating UN limits on oil supplies to the dictatorship regime.
A foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said Beijing has complied, “completely and strictly,” with the sanctions. However, a South Korean newspaper had previously reported that U.S. spy satellites have spotted Chinese ships transferring oil to North Korean vessels multiple times in the past few months.
Trump also noted in the interview that the U.S.’s trade with China was connected to the country’s cooperation in putting an end to the North Korean nuclear crisis.
“When I campaigned, I was very tough on China in terms of trade. They made — last year, we had a trade deficit with China of $350 billion, minimum. That doesn’t include the theft of intellectual property, O.K., which is another $300 billion,” Trump said.
“If they’re helping me with North Korea, I can look at trade a little bit differently, at least for a period of time. And that’s what I’ve been doing. But when oil is going in, I‘m not happy about that,” Trump added.
Washington says that China’s cooperation in this effort is crucial. Last week, the UN Security Council imposed new limits on oil supplies to North Korea, banning almost 90 percent of refined petroleum exports to North Korea, allowing only 500,000 barrels of year.