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Trump Says China Alone Can’t Handle North Korea, As State Mulls Possible Travel Restrictions

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WASHINGTON — The death of Otto Warmbier, an American student held captive by North Korea, led President Trump to say Tuesday that the U.S. can’t rely on China to handle the authoritarian nation.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer was peppered with questions about Warmbier’s death during Tuesday’s briefing, specifically whether the Trump administration “had anything to say to China” regarding the American college student’s death.

Spicer replied that the White House will continue to work with its allies and apply economic and political pressure to North Korea. He added, “We’ve had a positive movement with China over the past five months in this administration.”

Throughout the presidential campaign and early weeks of his presidency, Trump suggested that China alone could solve issues with North Korea. However, after meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping in April he “realized it’s not so easy.” The president told The Wall Street Journal, “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power over North Korea…But it’s not what you would think.”

The president extended this train of thought Tuesday and tweeted, “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!”

The U.S. believes that North Korea is responsible for Warmbier’s death and State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said a press briefing that the administration is looking at ways to hold the nation accountable. Warmbier, 22, returned to the U.S. in a coma after 17 months of captivity.

Nauert said that the administration is “contemplating” restricting American travel to North Korea, but a decision has not been reached. Three Americans remain imprisoned in North Korea and the State Department spokeswoman called for them to be released.

A leaked transcript of a call between President Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte revealed Trump’s mindset if China “doesn’t do it.” He told Duterte the U.S. will handle it and that “we have a lot of firepower, more than [Kim Jong Un] has, times 20 but we don’t want to use it.”

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