China on Friday indignantly denied U.S. President Donald Trump's reports it was illegally selling oil products to North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions, with diplomatic officials describing the former reality television host as feeding “hyped-up media reports” while state media described his demeanor as “stupid” and “provoking mockery and criticism in China.”
China on Thursday blocked a U.S. effort at the United Nations to blacklist six foreign-flagged ships – five of which were mainland-China- or Hong Kong-owned – that Washington believes alleges were involved in illicit trade with North Korea, a U.N. Security Council diplomat said.
Trump said on Twitter on Thursday that China had been "caught RED HANDED" allowing oil into North Korea and that would prevent "a friendly solution" to the crisis over Pyongyang's development of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States.
In a subsequent New York Times interview, Trump explicitly tied his administration's trade policy with China to cooperation in resolving the standoff with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as the North is officially known.
Trump appeared upset as he complained that while Chinese leader Xi Jinping “treated me better than anybody’s ever been treated in the history of China,” the alleged shipments could mean he would be forced to “do what I’ve always said I want to do,” a vague threat that could hint at a move to launch a trade war on China.
“Oil is going into North Korea. That wasn’t my deal!”
Mei Xinyu, an advisor to trade officials in China, told state-owned Chinese newspaper Global Times that Trump's attempts to link the two issues was "absurd and truly laughable."
"Those two issues are already complicated enough on their own and Trump wants to put them together and address them together? I really don't know what to say except that it's a really stupid decision," Mei added.
Chinese experts also appeared bemused at a situation where they face accusations from a celebrity-turned-U.S. commander-in-chief who makes accusations based on an unlikely information source: the morning news – specifically, reports on Fox News Channel.
Lu Chao, a Korea expert at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said that Trump's tweets were simply “irresponsible.”
"I don't know what's more absurd: That we are seeing the president of the world's most powerful country conducting diplomatic negotiations on Twitter or that we know the U.S. president is getting information from fake news reports instead of the most powerful intelligence apparatus in the world under his control," Lu Chao, a DPRK expert at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
"It's very counterproductive for foreign media to make such false connections and irresponsible for Trump to spread them," the Chinese academic added.
While critics such as Lu have blasted the famously temperamental president's habit of addressing important and trivial issues alike through Twitter as unbecoming for a leader, Trump has defended the practice as “not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL.”
During his election campaign last year, Trump bragged that he is considered the “Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters,” adding that if one of his detractors says something bad about him, “bing bing bing — I say something really bad about them.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying took exception to the media reports and tweets, dismissing suggestions a Chinese vessel was suspected of transporting oil to a North Korean vessel on Oct. 19 and commenting that "the reported situation does not conform with fact."
"In reality, the ship in question has, since August, not docked at a Chinese port and there is no record of it entering or leaving a Chinese port," Hua said.
"The Chinese side has always fully and strictly implemented the Security Council's resolutions and fulfilled its international obligations and will never allow any Chinese citizen or companies to engage in actions that violate the Security Council's resolutions," Hua added.
"If, through investigation, it's confirmed there are violations of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, China will deal with them seriously in accordance with laws and regulations."
The Trump administration has led a drive to step up global sanctions on Pyongyang and the U.N. Security Council last week unanimously imposed new sanctions in response to Pyongyang's Nov. 29 test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The DPRK has excoriated the U.N. sanctions resolution “as a wanton violation of its sovereignty and a war act of harassing peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and the region,” according to the Korean Central News Agency.
“The reason that we opted for the simultaneous development of the two fronts was to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country form the U.S. imperialists' nuclear blackmail policy and nuclear threat and ensure the peaceful life of the people and reliably guarantee the peace and security of the Korean peninsula and, furthermore, the world,” the KCNA article stated.
“No force can stop the army and people of the DPRK from making dynamic advance toward bolstering the state nuclear force.”