Trump: I haven’t softened my stance on China

Despite his refusal thus far to follow through on his promise to label it a currency manipulator on day one of his campaign, President Donald Trump insisted in a new interview Tuesday that his stance on China has not softened.

Instead, he said, “this is the fake media that just does a number” by refusing to acknowledge progress he has claimed on pressuring China into reining in North Korea, which has ramped up its bellicose rhetoric and missile testing in recent weeks.

“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? So, I’m dealing with China with great respect,” Trump told Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” in an interview that was taped Monday and aired Tuesday morning.

“They’re not dealing the same way. Nobody’s ever seen it like that,” the president continued. “Nobody’s ever seen such a positive response on our behalf from China, and then the fake media goes ‘Donald Trump has changed his stance on China.’ I haven’t changed my stance. China’s trying to help us.”

The president, who met with China’s president, Xi Jinping, earlier this month in Florida, called his Chinese counterpart “a terrific person” with whom he had “a good chemistry.” During last year’s presidential campaign, Trump was also quick to praise China’s leaders, but only relative to those in the U.S., who he said were being taken advantage of by the Chinese.

As a candidate, Trump pitched himself as the antidote to what he said had become a one-sided relationship with China. He promised to label China a currency manipulator on day one of his administration, something he has now said he has no immediate plans to do, and to make more even the trade relationship between the two nations.

In the interview that aired Tuesday, Trump left open the possibility that China might ultimately be unable, or unwilling, to apply sufficient pressure on North Korea.

“Now, maybe he won’t be able to help. That’s possible. I think he’s trying. But, maybe he won’t be able to help, and that’s a whole different story. But, we’ll see what happens,” Trump said of China’s President Xi. “Do I want to start heavy, heavy trade or currency manipulation statements against someone who’s out there trying to stop what could be a very bad situation? You understand that.”