Donald Trump said Russia was “hurting” efforts to rein in North Korea Wednesday — a rare White House rebuke for the Kremlin.
Speaking to Fox Business Network, the president said closer ties between Washington and Moscow could help solve the crisis on the Peninsula, while praising China for its help with Pyongyang.
Trump, whose time in office has been overshadowed by allegations of collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign, told the broadcaster improved relations would be a “good thing.”
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with — you know they are a power, they’re a nuclear power. I think we could have a good relationship,” Trump said. “I think that North Korean situation would be easier settled.”
“China is helping us and maybe Russia’s going through the other way and hurting what we’re getting,” he added.
During the campaign, Trump promised to repair relations with Russia. Those efforts have been stymied by multiple investigations into the Kremlin’s election interference.
Russia, along with China, sought to water down recent UN sanctions against Pyongyang. Though Russia conducts only a fraction of China’s trade with North Korea, it remains a key supplier of oil to the regime.
Russia may even seek closer ties with Kim Jong un. In the first half of 2017, Moscow almost doubled its gasoline and diesel fuel exports to the country. However, experts have said official figures are only a fraction of the total oil being supplied by Russia; one claimed the true figure was three times higher.
The Kremlin is also wary of the U.S. increasing its influence in Asia; Russia joined China in opposing the installation of American advanced anti-missile defenses in South Korea.
Speaking about a possible oil embargo on North Korea, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently said Pyongyang would rather “eat grass” than simply give up its nuclear program.