AP

On Friday afternoon, after a signing ceremony on trade, President Trump sat down with the Financial Times in the Oval Office and gave a blunt, hard-edged interview that foreshadows some tense conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping at their Mar-a-Lago summit on Thursday and Friday:

[H]e made clear that he would deal with North Korea with or without China's help. Asked if he would consider a "grand bargain" — where China pressures Pyongyang in exchange for a guarantee that the US would later remove troops from the Korean peninsula — Mr Trump said: "Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you."

Bill Bishop (@niubi) — publisher of The Sinocism China Newsletter, and one of Washington's most astute China-watchers — offered to help Axios AM read between the lines of Trump's interview, and to get us smart ahead of this week's summit:

  • "The U.S. does need a different approach, and Trump is right to threaten unilateral actions if Beijing does not do what it can."
  • "Beijing does not control Pyongyang, ... but it does still has significant economic influence. ... China does not like North Korea but they value stability and the status quo above everything else. And we should remember that China is currently at much more risk from Kim's nuclear weapons than the U.S. is, and that is something Beijing worries about."
  • "There were people under Obama who pushing for a much harder line, from secondary sanctions to telling the Chinese that attempts at [North Korean] regime change would be considered, but as far as I know Obama was not willing to send that message clearly. It sounds like Trump is, and that should focus minds in Beijing."
  • The bottom line: "[T]he Chinese are going to be very resistant to anything that threatens the stability on the Korean Peninsula, the paradox of course being that [North Korea] is threatening that stability more now than it has in years."

Also worthy: Josh Rogin's column in WashPost, "The Kushner channel to China".

"In mid-November, Kissinger met Kushner, national security adviser designate Michael Flynn and the president-elect at Trump Tower. Trump asked Kissinger to travel to Beijing and deliver a verbal message to Xi saying that everything was on the table in terms of bilateral cooperation. Kissinger met Xi in Beijing on Dec. 2, and Xi sent back a private reply conveying China's wish to set up an early meeting of the two presidents."
Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
Please enter a valid email.
Please enter a valid email.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Subscribed! Look for Axios AM and PM in your inbox tomorrow or read the latest Axios AM now.

Go deeper

Biden releases 2019 tax returns ahead of debate

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Joe Biden's campaign released his 2019 tax returns on Tuesday, showing that he and his wife, Jill, paid nearly $300,000 in federal taxes last year.

Why it matters: The release, timed just hours before the first presidential debate, comes days after a bombshell New York Times report said that President Trump paid only $750 in federal taxes in 2016 and 2017. Biden's team is hoping to make the tax contrast a sticking point during their showdown.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2:15 p.m. ET: 33,454,037 — Total deaths: 1,003,571 — Total recoveries: 23,204,219Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2:15 p.m. ET: 7,165,067 — Total deaths: 205,476 — Total recoveries: 2,794,608 — Total tests: 102,342,416Map.
  3. Health: Americans won't take Trump's word on the vaccine, Axios-Ipsos poll finds.
  4. States: NYC's coronavirus positivity rate spikes to highest since June.
  5. Sports: Tennessee Titans close facility amid NFL's first coronavirus outbreak.
  6. World: U.K. beats previous record for new coronavirus cases.

NYC's coronavirus positivity rate spikes to highest since June

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

New York City's coronavirus positivity rate has ticked up to 3.25%, its highest since June, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The jump — from 1.93% on Monday — came on the first day that public elementary classrooms reopened in the city after months of closures, but guidelines state that all public schools will have to shut if the citywide seven-day positivity rate stays above 3%.