Trump: 'I didn't soften my stance' on China

President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE during an interview that aired early Tuesday denied that he had softened his stance on China.

"I didn't soften my stance," the president said on "Fox & Friends." "Look, China came to the United States. The president, who I really developed a very good relationship with — I think he's a terrific person — I really got to know him very well."

Trump said he was with Chinese President Xi Jinping for "hours and hours" over a two-day period earlier this month.

"We had a 15-minute scheduled meeting and it lasted for three hours, and the same thing happened the next day," he said.


"We have a good chemistry together. He understands it's a big problem. He's working on it. Now, what am I going to do, start a trade war with China in the middle of him working on a bigger problem, frankly, with North Korea?"

Trump also said he has "great respect" for Xi.

"We'll see what he can do. Now, maybe he won't be able to help. That's possible," he said. "I think he's trying, but maybe he won't be able to help, and that's a whole different story. So we'll see what happens."

Trump on the campaign trail frequently promised to label China a currency manipulator and complained about Beijing's trade policies — at one point saying the U.S. “can’t continue to allow China to rape our country.”

"We're going to turn it around, and we have the cards, don't forget it," he told supporters at a rally last May. "We have a lot of power with China."

Trump in the Fox News interview on Tuesday also criticized the media for reports of him softening his stance on Beijing.

"Somebody said currency manipulation. What am I going to do? In the middle of him talking with North Korea, I'm going  to hit them with currency manipulation?" he said. "This is the fake media that just does a number. ... Nobody's ever seen such a positive response on our behalf from China, and then the fake media goes, 'Donald Trump has changed his stance on China.' "

The president reiterated he hasn't changed his stance on China.

"China's trying to help us," he said.

"I don't know if they're going to be able to or not, but wouldn't I want to start heavy, heavy trade or currency manipulation statements against somebody who's out there right now trying to stop what could be a very bad situation."

In a tweet last weekend, the president questioned why he would call China a "currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem."