U.S. President Donald Trump will likely visit China in November to meet with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in the shadow of a looming nuclear crisis in North Korea, official state media reported.
Trump will meet Xi while on a trip to an ASEAN summit in the Philippines and an APEC summit in Vietnam. The two presidents met initially in April at Trump's Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida.
While Trump claims a warm personal relationship with Xi, Washington has since launched trade investigations into Chinese practices via the World Trade Organization.
Trump has also stepped up pressure on Beijing to do more to rein in North Korea, while Beijing has said it is already doing all it can, calling for a return to the negotiating table.
"There are many tensions in the U.S.-China relationship right now," Xia Ming, a political science professor at the The City University of New York, told RFA in a recent interview.
"This visit will be a test for both leaders, whether or not they can stave off a major crisis of this kind, and whether U.S.-China cooperation can survive it without leading to conflict or clashes," he said.
"That's basically the bottom line in this relationship."
In Washington, the Treasury Department continues to target anyone conducting significant trade in goods, services, or technology with North Korea, banning them from interacting with the U.S. financial system.
"Foreign financial institutions must choose between doing business with the United States or facilitating trade with North Korea or its designated supporters," the order says.
It also imposes a 180-day "quarantine" on vessels and aircraft that have visited North Korea.
Reports indicate that confidential discussions are under way regarding the cutting off of the Chinese banking support on which Pyongyang depends for its finances, although few details have emerged.
China accounts for around 90 percent of North Korea's trade, and serves as the country's conduit to the international banking system, and the cutting off of financial backing could hamper Kim Jong Un's nuclear weapons development.
Support from China
Wu Fan, editor in chief of the U.S.-based Chinese-language magazine Chinese Affairs, said state-owned Chinese entities have long supported the North Korean regime.
"Certain Chinese companies and banks have been supporting [North Korea]. This has now been revealed," Wu said. "So it's a lie to claim that this has nothing to do with China."
"Where are they getting the materials? To start with, it was from the Soviet Union, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they've been getting them from China," Wu said, citing recent reporting in The New York Times.
"Ever since North Korea began developing nuclear weapons in 1994, they have had Russian support, and they have also had Chinese support," Wu said. "[Former presidents] Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao both supported this."
The Associated Press quoted U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday as saying that China had begun the process of restricting banking transactions in "a somewhat unexpected move and we appreciate it."
In Beijing, foreign minister Wang Yi repeated the ruling Chinese Communist Party's official line that negotiations are the "only way out" of the nuclear standoff, but Chinese officials have declined to confirm or deny reports that China has already taken steps to restrict banking transactions with its neighbor.
Official North Korean media on Friday hit out at Chinese state media outlets on Friday, accusing them of coming out to "seriously slander and intimidate our line and system."
"The People's Daily and its sister paper the Global Times ... [are] ignoring the legitimacy of [North Korea's] possession of nuclear weapons and the self-defensive nature of its consolidation of the nuclear armed forces of the state," the Rodong Sinmun said in a commentary.
"The People's Daily and its affiliates ... are continuing to spout the senseless, unjustified stories that would make even Trump's twitter articles blush," the article said.
Meanwhile, residents of Heilongjiang's provincial capital Harbin, which have North Korea as a neighbor, staged a rare public demonstration against Pyongyang's recent nuclear tests this week.
On Sept. 18, Harbin resident Li Keren and friends walked through the downtown area of the city, holding up a placard protesting the tests.
"We walked through the streets in order to get out a very urgent message," Li said. "We did it quickly, so the police didn't have chance to come and stop us. Then we left."
Rights activist Yu Yunfeng said he had staged a similar protest in Harbin the week before.
"I raised my placard on Sept. 15, and I received a number of phone calls from the police on the 16th," Yu said. "Any one of us could become a victim of these tests."
"The police said they understood this, but that I wasn't allowed to do it anyway."
"The North Koreans have carried out six nuclear tests so far, and the central government has done nothing, so we need to get together and protest," Yu said.
Reported by Lin Ping and C.K. for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.