WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that China wants to make a trade deal but it should treat Hong Kong “humanely” first, explicitly tying a trade agreement to a peaceful resolution of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
“Of course China wants to make a deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!” Trump said on Twitter.
“I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi (Jinping) wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?” Trump said.
A U.S. State Department spokeswoman said earlier on Wednesday that the United States was “deeply concerned” about Chinese paramilitary movement along the Hong Kong border.
The State Department’s expression of concern came after senior U.S. lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties called on Trump to take a tougher line with China as worries grew over a possible Chinese intervention.
Trump, who has been seeking a major deal to correct trade imbalances with China, has faced criticism from Congress and elsewhere for not taking a stronger public line on Hong Kong and for his characterization of the protests earlier this month as “riots” that were a matter for China to deal with.
Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by David Alexander and Sandra Maler