BEIJING • China sharpened its rhetoric over the Trump administration's efforts to investigate its trade practices yesterday, vowing to use any means necessary to defend the country and its companies.
While analysts do not believe a trade war between the world's two largest economies is imminent, China's harsh words underline a recent fraying of the relationship between Beijing and Washington over trade and North Korea.
On Wednesday, China's Foreign Ministry demanded the United States "immediately" withdraw unilateral sanctions against several Chinese companies and individuals it accused of illegally trading with the Pyongyang regime.
US President Donald Trump initially said he would set aside trade disputes with China to get Beijing's cooperation in reining in North Korea, but reversed course earlier this month by calling for a probe into the theft of intellectual property by Chinese companies.
Experts say the administration may now be coming to terms with the limits of Beijing's willingness to put pressure on Pyongyang, and wants to demonstrate it is taking steps to bring down the trade deficit, a key campaign promise.
On Monday, the Chinese Commerce Ministry had called Mr Trump's move on trade "irresponsible" and "protectionist", and arguing that it ignored the rules of the World Trade Organisation.
Yesterday, it upped the ante, saying the decision had "poured cold water" on efforts to improve trade ties between the two countries.
"We are strongly discontented with this unilateralism and protectionism, and will take all the necessary measures to resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of the Chinese side and Chinese enterprises," Mr Gao Feng, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, told a news conference, calling it a "violation" of the international trade system.
Meanwhile, trade tensions are also heating up between China and South Korea, after the latter's deployment of a controversial defence system.
Yet, China's President Xi Jinping pledged to make concerted efforts with South Korea's President Moon Jae In to address differences between the two countries properly, the official Xinhua news agency said yesterday. Mr Xi made the remarks in a congratulatory message sent to Mr Moon on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of China-South Korea diplomatic relations, Xinhua said.
South Korea and the US had agreed to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) anti-missile system in response to the growing missile threat from North Korea.
But the installation of the missile system has angered China, which says its powerful radar will be able to look deep into its territory and undermine regional security.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said the exchange of congratulatory messages was consistent with usual practice.
"We hope the South Korean side can summarise and look back on the experiences and lessons from the 25 years of diplomatic relations, and take constructive actions to appropriately address relevant sensitive issues and differences to improve relations between China and South Korea," Ms Hua told a daily news briefing.
"On the issue of Thaad, China's position is very clear, resolute and there is no change."
WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS