US President Donald Trump arrives at a Make America Great Again rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Florida, on July 31 2018. Picture: REUTERS
US President Donald Trump arrives at a Make America Great Again rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Florida, on July 31 2018. Picture: REUTERS

Tampa — US President Donald Trump has suggested China is obstructing nuclear talks with North Korea, as the world’s two biggest economies tussle over trade.

Trump’s remark at a political rally Wednesday in Tampa, Florida, was the latest sign of friction between the US and North Korea, as they attempt to implement on Kim’s June 12 agreement to "work toward complete denuclearisation".

The president made the claim during a long defence of his trade war with China.

"We are doing well in North Korea, although I happen to think that we’re doing so well with China that China maybe is getting in our way," Trump said, noting that Kim had continued to refrain from launching missiles. "No tests. No rockets flying. We’ll see what happens."

Trump did not provide details on how China was interfering in the nuclear talks.

It was not the first time Trump has suggested China was relaxing pressure on North Korea amid the simmering trade dispute.

After his summit with Kim in Singapore, Trump acknowledged that his trade disputes could discourage Chinese President Xi Jinping’s co-operation, saying "the border is more open than it was when we first started".

Besides being the US’s largest trading partner, China is arguably the most important player in Trump’s "maximum pressure" campaign to force Kim to give up his nuclear arsenal.

After an April 2017 meeting at the president’s Mar-a-Lago home, Xi supported successive rounds of United Nations sanctions and clamped down on border trade with North Korea.

China has so far avoided publicly conflating the disputes over trade and North Korea. The government has said only that the UN Security Council — where China and the US both wield vetoes — should revisit sanctions after Kim’s meeting with Trump.

Since the Singapore summit, independent researchers and US intelligence reports published by news organisations have suggested North Korea is still expanding its weapons programme.

The regime has continued to assemble intercontinental ballistic missiles at a plant near Pyongyang, the Washington Post reported on Monday, citing people familiar with US intelligence.

Trump told the rally that he had a good relationship with Kim. "There’s nothing like talking," he said.

Bloomberg