A senior Chinese trade official said Monday the issue of China-U.S. trade should be kept separate from the issue of North Korean security threats, pushing back on statements from President Donald Trump.
Vice Commerce Minister Qian Keming's remarks came after Trump over the weekend complained that China had benefited massively from trade with the U.S. while providing no help resolving problems with North Korea.
"North Korea's nuclear issue and the issue of trade between China and the United States are two different issues. They are not related. You cannot speak about them together," Qian told reporters at a news conference to announce new trade data.
Qian also emphasized the mutual benefits of China's trade and investment with the U.S., rebuffing Trump's repeated claims that Beijing has exploited liberal U.S. trade policies to its own advantage.
Trump sent a pair of tweets on Sunday, saying: "I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet...they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!"
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley joined in the criticism, saying China "must decide whether it is finally willing to take this vital step" of getting tough on the North.
China is the North's biggest trade partner and food and fuel aid source, leading the U.S. and others to press Beijing to use its leverage to rein in Pyongyang's behavior by cutting off assistance or agreeing to harsher sanctions. Chinese companies also have a virtual monopoly on investments in North Korea's economy, particularly natural resources.
China however says its influence with Pyongyang is overblown and has declared repeatedly that it would not agree to measures that could bring about the collapse of the regime and create chaos along its border.
Also Monday, Qian said China reported trade volume rose in the first half of 2017 against the same period last year, ending a two-year decline. Imports rose 19.6 percent in the period from January to June, while exports rose 25.7 percent.