Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said talks here between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping forged an “unequivocal” agreement between both countries that North Korea cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons.
“There is no disagreement on North Korea. We were pretty pleased by the fact that the Chinese have been really clear and unequivocal that they will not accept a North Korea with nuclear weapons,” Tillerson told ABC News’ Cecilia Vega in a briefing at the conclusion of the summit.
“Our efforts are complementary -– not in any way contradictory -– to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table about how they will denuclearize their country,” he said.
While the comments highlighted a key area of common ground, officials gave no indication of new steps China would take to help resolve the standoff with North Korea or a clear timeline for other possible moves in the future.
Tillerson acknowledged that Trump and Xi differ in timing, tactics and approach to pressuring the Kim Jong Un regime. He said China believes the sanctions currently in place need time to have maximum effect.
“We’ve had some tremendous discussions on that today and I think things will happen, I believe things will happen,” Trump said during the meeting with Xi.
White House aides have said Trump believes Xi uniquely holds the key to resolving the crisis in North Korea. China is the Kim regime’s largest financial benefactor and has multiple points of leverage — from cross-border trade, to bank accounts and oil exports.
Tillerson suggested Trump showered Xi with flattery in their meetings to try to drive home that point.
“President Trump has been very clear with President Xi -– that you are a very powerful neighbor of theirs, you account for 90-plus percent of their economic activity, you’re a very strong man and you can solve this for me,” Tillerson said.
At a joint press conference by Trump and Xi, both men expressed optimism for a solution short of war.
“As long as we stand together, with others if necessary, against those who threaten our civilization that threat will never happen. It doesn’t even have a chance,” Trump said.