Prodding China on trade
Trump plans to look into technology ‘theft’ but still wants Beijing to help with N. Korea.
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Monday will start a process that could lead to action against China, which has been accused of stealing American businesses’ intellectual property, even as he seeks Beijing’s help against nuclear threats from North Korea.
Several administration officials outlined the preliminary trade action to reporters Saturday, suggesting — contrary to Trump’s own statements — that trade policy toward China is divorced from any national security concern, including North Korea.
“Trade is trade; national security is national security,” said one official, who, like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with administration practice.
As recently as Thursday, the president volunteered a connection between the two, and not for the first time, in remarks to reporters about his weeklong nuclear standoff with North Korea. Trump suggested that if China helped rein in North Korea, which relies on Beijing’s economic and security aid, he could ease his attacks on Chinese trade practices, which were a mainstay of his election campaign.
“We lose hundreds of billions of dollars a year on trade with China. They know how I feel. It’s not going to continue like that,” Trump said from his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “But if China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade — a lot differently toward trade.”
The officials would not confirm reports that the trade action Trump plans to initiate Monday had been delayed more than a week, until the administration secured China’s support to win a unanimous vote Aug. 5 in the U.N. Security Council for imposing new sanctions on North Korea.
The president’s trade action will be a long way from any punitive move against China, despite his and his advisors’ open talk of Chinese “theft” and “stealing” of U.S. companies’ intellectual property, which broadly includes technological innovations, film and other artistic products, industrial designs and military secrets.
He simply will initiate an investigation of intellectual property theft, joining a long line of inquiries running back through past administrations.
Trump advisors said the president on Monday plans to sign an executive memorandum, which is a step below an executive order, directing trade officials to investigate China’s “acts, policies or practices” that violate international protections for American intellectual property, innovations and technology.
In related matters, Chinese leader Xi Jinping urged restraint in a phone call with Trump on Friday, warning that “concerned parties” should avoid “remarks and actions” that could escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula.
According to the staterun New China News Agency, Xi reiterated China’s desire to work with the U.S., citing “common interests” in preserving stability in the region.
Trump understands China’s efforts to resolve the issue, the report said, and both leaders agreed to keep in close contact.
State media portrayed Xi as the voice of calm amid a trade-off of threats last week between Pyongyang and Washington. Trump on Friday said the U.S. military was “locked and loaded” and warned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would “regret it fast” if he endangered the U.S. or its allies.
The isolated nation last week laid out a plan to launch ballistic missiles into waters around Guam, a U.S. territory. China has repeatedly called for negotiations and scorned military action. It agreed to recent United Nations sanctions but fears a refugee crisis and the loss of a buffer state if North Korea’s economy collapses.
The Global Times, a Communist Party tabloid, warned Friday that China wouldn’t assist North Korea if it attacked U.S. territory and America retaliated. But if the U.S. and South Korea try to carry out strikes and overthrow the North Korean government, “China will prevent them from doing so.”
U.S. officials painted the call as one of friendly agreement.
The two leaders affirmed North Korea must stop “its provocative and escalatory behavior,” the White House said in a statement. The relationship between the two presidents is “an extremely close one,” the administration added, calling Trump’s upcoming visit to China “a very historic event.”
‘[I]f China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade — a lot differently toward trade.’ — President Trump, on bid for China to use influence to rein in North Korea
CHINESE LEADER Xi Jinping, left, urged restraint during a call with President Trump, warning against acts that could raise tensions in the Korean peninsula.