United States President Donald Trump will call tomorrow for his chief trade adviser to investigate China's intellectual property (IP) practices, website Politico reported, citing an unnamed administration official.
Trump said that past administrations had not done enough to take on North Korea and that it is time a President "stuck up for the country". "This is why the President has chosen to act now and to act boldly", one administration official said.
The officials said that matter, and the trade issue, are not linked.
Should an investigation find wrongdoing, Trump could impose tariffs against Chinese imports, which would mark a significant escalation in his efforts to reshape the trade relationship between the world's two largest economies.
Trump has accused China of failing to rein in the nuclear ambitions of its ally North Korea, even as he makes ever sharper threats against Pyongyang.
President Trump is planning to ask his staff to consider investigating Chinese trade practices, senior White House officials said Saturday.
In recent days, Trump and the North Korean regime have engaged in heated rhetoric about the Asian nation's nuclear weapons programme.
A possible move by the United States to launch an investigation into China's unfair trade practices based on Section 301 of the Trade Act has Taiwan anxious because many of its products sold to the USA are processed or assembled in China. Pyongyang this week threatened to fire missiles near the USA territory of Guam during an exchange of bellicose rhetoric with Trump.
"China's unfair trade practices and industrial policies, including forced technology transfer and intellectual property theft, harm the USA economy and workers", a second official said.
China's foreign and commerce ministries did not immediately respond to faxed requests for comment Sunday.
Gordon Sun (孫明德), director of the Economic Forecasting Center under the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, warned that if the US eventually imposes trade sanctions against China, "Taiwan should not take pleasure in (China's) misfortune".
They added that the trade measure would be carried out under the rules of global law and would not trigger greater conflict with China. "The results are there for all to see".
Trump is expected to return to Washington from his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. on Monday to sign the memo.
North Korea has lashed back at the US following President Donald Trump's latest warnings.
And then on Thursday, when speaking with reporters, Trump said in relation to North Korea, "if China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade".
Asked Friday if the US was going to war, he said cryptically, "I think you know the answer to that".
The trade investigation is expected to be only one part of a multi-pronged push by the Trump administration to counter perceived Chinese trade abuses, which Trump frequently railed against as a candidate.
Michael Froman, former USTR under the Obama administration, has also warned that the United States could face retaliation if the country moves away from resolving trade disputes through the WTO and instead starts taking unilateral actions.