President told UN China sought to help political opponents
China paid for advertising supplement in Iowa newspaper
Donald Trump said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping might not be friends anymore after he accused Beijing on Wednesday of trying to interfere in U.S. congressional elections in November.
“Maybe he’s not anymore,” Trump answered when asked how he could remain friends with Xi at a news conference on Wednesday after the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Even while U.S.-China trade tensions have risen in recent months, Trump has repeatedly touted his personal friendship with Xi. His latest remarks signal a further deterioration in ties, feeding fears that the two countries are heading toward a longer term confrontation that could have widespread geopolitical ramifications.
Trump’s trade feud with the world’s most populous nation escalated during his visit to the UN as the president accused China of attempting to meddle in the U.S. midterm election. He provided no evidence at a UN Security Council meeting where he first leveled the allegation, with a Chinese official sitting nearby.
“We have evidence,” Trump said at his news conference. The charge “didn’t come out of nowhere, I’ll tell you.”
Trump said during the Security Council meeting he hosted that Beijing sought to help his political opponents in the midterms. His remarks came three days after China placed an advertising supplement in Iowa’s largest newspaper attacking Trump’s trade war.
“We do not and will not interfere in any country’s domestic affairs,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at the Security Council meeting, through a translator. “We refuse to accept any unwarranted accusations against China.”
Trump has slapped tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods as part of an escalating trade war between the two countries. China has retaliated with tariffs on $110 billion of U.S. products. Asked earlier Wednesday about his claim that China was attempting to meddle, Trump highlighted Chinese counter-tariffs that have targeted farmers and a public-relations campaign focused on states like Iowa.
“I don’t like it when they attack our farmers. And I don’t like it when they put out false messages,’’ Trump told reporters earlier. “But beside that, we learned that they are trying to meddle in our election.’’
— With assistance by Enda Curran