U.S. President Donald Trump will do "whatever it takes to protect America" from North Korean threats if Chinese efforts to rein in the provocative regime don't work, the White House said Thursday.
Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders made the remark during a press gaggle in response to a question about Trump's Twitter posting earlier this week that China tried to help the U.S. with the North, but those efforts didn't work.
"I think the President has been extremely clear on this process. Of course, he hopes to work with China and continue to work with them to put pressure on North Korea. But if that doesn’t work, then the President has been clear that he will do whatever it takes to protect America," Sanders said.
Since his first summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in April, Trump has repeatedly praised China for trying to increase pressure on North Korea while refraining from labeling Beijing a currency manipulator for fear it could hamper efforts to enlist Chinese help in reining in the North.
China is North Korea's last-remaining major ally and a key provider of food and fuel supplies. But it has been reluctant to use its influence over Pyongyang for fears that pushing the regime too hard could result in instability in the North and hurt Chinese national interests.
Analysts doubt how far China can go in pressuring Pyongyang, saying China has often increased pressure on the North in the past, especially when Pyongyang carried out nuclear and missile tests and other provocative acts, but it never went as far as to cause real pain.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert urged China to do more.
"They certainly have a role to play. They're a very large economic partner with North Korea," she said. "We continue to look to China and ask China to do more to fully adhere to and administer, if you will, the sanctions in place against -- against North Korea. We call on China, as we do many, many nations, to do more."
Nauert declined comment on a proposal from the North Korean ambassador to India that Pyongyang could suspend nuclear and missile testing if the U.S. halted joint military exercises with South Korea.
"I don't have a response to that, but the DPRK knows what they need to do in order to get the United States to work with them. And they know that has to be denuclearization. The secretary has said he's not going to negotiate his way back to the negotiating table," he said. (Yonhap)