Republican and Democratic lawmakers said in television news interviews broadcast Sunday that China holds the key to resolving tensions with North Korea and urged the Trump administration to focus its efforts on pressing China to use its influence.
The members of Congress pointed to China’s diplomatic and economic ties to North Korea as a key lever for minimizing the threat posed by North Korea. The comments came as North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile that quickly blew up early Sunday.
‘‘There is the realization that if China does cut off all transactions with North Korea, we’ll be in a position where once again the dictator will not be able to pay his generals,’’ Rep. Edward R. Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on CNN’s ‘‘State of the Union.’’
‘‘We need to keep the pressure on China to rein North Korea in,’’ said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, speaking on ‘‘Fox News Sunday.’’ Thornberry said the United States should also increase its military presence in the region.
‘‘China is the key. They can stop this if they want to because of their control over the North Korean economy,’’ Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview on NBC’s ‘‘Meet the Press.’’
Trump tweeted Sunday: ‘‘Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!’’ His rhetoric was at odds with what he said during the 2016 campaign, when he repeatedly accused China of currency manipulation.
Asked whether China’s currency policy has anything to do with North Korea, McCain responded: ‘‘It may be part of the overall relationship.’’
Speaking on the same program, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jack Reed, R.I., also focused heavily on China.
‘‘If China can be brought to the point where they are putting pressure constantly on North Korea, there’s an opportunity, I think, to try to freeze their systems and then roll them back,’’ Reed said.
On ‘‘State of the Union,’’ Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., warned the Trump administration not to act ‘‘impulsively’’ or ‘‘unilaterally’’ on North Korea.
‘‘The key, I think, to this situation - and I think President Trump understands this - is dealing with China,’’ Sanders said.
Royce warned against taking ‘‘too much comfort’’ in the failed North Korea missile test but called it a ‘‘good development.’’
‘‘They will be closely, in the not-too-distant future, in a position where they can hit all 50 states in the United States with an ICBM,’’ he said on ‘‘State of the Union,’’ using an acronym for intercontinental ballistic missile. Royce said North Korea might still try to conduct another nuclear test.
Trump’s shifts in foreign policy were a focal point in some of the interviews.
‘‘There are some that will say, ‘No, the Washington establishment sucked him in,’’’ ‘‘Meet the Press’’ host Chuck Todd told McCain.
‘‘I hope so,’’ McCain replied with a chuckle.
The senator added, ‘‘No, on national security, I do believe he has assembled a strong team, and, I think very appropriately, he’s listening to them.’’
Asked whether he was comforted by Trump’s flips, including those on China and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Reed responded, ‘‘Well, I think it’s recognizing, in many cases, the obvious, what he has to do.’’