US President Donald Trump admitted his friendship with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping could be over on Wednesday as he accused Beijing of undermining his prospects in upcoming elections.
With tensions growing sharply between the two sides on a range of issues, Trump said China wanted him to suffer an electoral setback as payback for his hard line over trade.
After accusing the government in Beijing of using a variety of tactics to damage his chances at the vital midterm polls in November, he said that relations with Xi might have taken a permanent turn for the worse.
Trump has spoken many times since coming to office of his friendship with Xi, praising the Chinese leader for his role in helping bring pressure to bear on North Korea over its nuclear program.
But asked at a press conference in New York how Xi could remain his friend given the hike in tensions, Trump indicated that he preferred to be respected than liked.
“He may not be a friend of mine anymore but I think he probably respects me,” said the president, who said the US economy was easily weathering the impact of the trade dispute.
Washington this week enacted new tariffs against China covering another $200 billion of its imports, shrugging off threats of counter measures from Beijing.
“We have to make it fair,” he said. “A lot of money is coming into our coffers. And it’s had absolutely no impact on our economy.”
China has vowed to retaliate with duties on $60 billion in US goods, but since the country only imports a total of $130 billion, its ability to hit back with matching tariffs is limited.
The accusation of electoral interference first came during a meeting of the UN Security Council that Trump chaired himself earlier in the day.
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