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US reaffirms deal against 'freeze for freeze' with N. Korea

WASHINGTON -- The United States reaffirmed Thursday that President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart have agreed not to pursue a Beijing-proposed deal on North Korea's nuclear program.

Trump said Wednesday that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping "would not accept a so-called 'freeze for freeze' agreement," which calls for suspending US-South Korea military exercises in exchange for halting North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile testing.

The arrangement has been pushed by China and Russia as a solution to the escalating crisis over North Korea's weapons programs. Shortly after Trump's remarks, China's foreign ministry said it still believes a freeze for freeze is "the most viable and reasonable" way out of the stalemate.

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (AP-Yonhap)
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (AP-Yonhap)

"Our position on this has been made clear several times," Katina Adams, a spokeswoman for the State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said in comments to Yonhap News Agency. 

"There is no equivalency between the US-(South Korea) Alliance's lawful, longstanding, and defense-oriented military exercises and (North Korea's) unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs."

She reiterated Trump's statement that Xi recognizes a nuclear North Korea as a "grave threat" to China and that the two leaders agreed not to accept the agreement that is "like those that have consistently failed in the past."

The White House later clarified that Trump and Xi agreed to accept their differences.

"Both sides made their position clear," press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at a briefing. "They're different, but we agreed that they're going to be different positions, and therefore it's not going to move forward."

She also said Trump will decide and make an announcement early next week regarding the possible designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. (Yonhap)