Beijing: First Donald Trump accused China of hacking Hillary Clinton's emails, and now he has blamed China for a breakdown in denuclearisation talks with North Korea.
The US President's latest series of tweets comes as Chinese foreign policy analysts publicly conclude the Trump administration has no interest in striking a deal to avert the China-US trade war.
They say, in fact, that the trade war has now evolved into a strategy to contain China.
The FBI on Wednesday said there was "no evidence" for a claim Trump had made that China, not Russia, was behind the Clinton email hacking. Then Thursday's tweet accused China of breaching United Nations sanctions on North Korea.
"President Donald J. Trump feels strongly that North Korea is under tremendous pressure from China because of our major trade disputes with the Chinese Government. At the same time, we also know that China is providing North Korea with considerable aid, including money, fuel, fertilizer and various other commodities," the tweet said.
But in the next sentence, Trump contradicted his Defence Secretary James Mattis, who had threatened to resume joint military drills between the US and South Korea as talks with North Korea stalled.
"There is no reason at this time to be spending large amounts of money on joint US-South Korea war games. Besides, the President can instantly start the joint exercises again with South Korea, and Japan, if he so chooses," the tweet written in the third person said.
North Korea analyst Robert Kelly of Pusan University said Trump's tweets were a clown show. "Trump is just buck-passing the US-NK stalemate onto China, [because] he doesn't want to take the blame himself," Kelly wrote, also in a tweet.
"Trump is further antagonising China – on top of the trade war."
Andray Abrahamian, a North Korea specialist at Griffith University, told Fairfax Media that Trump was probably seeking to clarify Mattis's widely reported comments that indicated military drills may resume – their suspension was a key concession made by Trump to North Korea at the Singapore Summit.
Last week Trump abruptly cancelled a visit to Pyongyang by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo within 24 hours of announcing it.
US website Vox has reported Trump is refusing to sign a declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War until North Korea undertakes denuclearisation.
"I don’t know if it is off the rails as much as they aren’t making progress on key issues. In that sense I think not sending Pompeo is a good idea. Because if he came back empty handed again, then that really could be a dead end," said Abrahamian.
Trump's China policy seems "a little schizophrenic", he said. "This affects American policy towards North Korea because North Korea is one of the key issues around which US and Chinese interests pivot."
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, responded to Trump’s tweet by saying China’s policy on North Korea was consistent.
“We hope the United States can do what China has been doing - keep its promises and play a positive and responsible role in promoting a political settlement on the issue.
“The US should look at itself when it encounters difficulties on the issue.”
Chinese foreign policy analysts believe Trump's erratic attacks on China are playing to a US domestic audience ahead of mid-term elections in November.
An opinion piece in the official Communist Party mouthpiece, People's Daily, said trade had once been the ballast stone in US-China relations, but that had now changed.
Long Guoqiang, deputy director of the Development Research Center of the State Council, wrote: “The trade war is not just a measure for the US to gain more economic benefits, it is also an important strategy to contain China."
He added: “With the US labelling China as a strategic rival, Sino-US relations will experience a deep structural change."
Chen Wenling, chief economist at the China International Economic Exchange Centre, told a forum: "The decision-making circles around Trump have all been replaced by hard-line factions against China."
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is expected to travel to Pyongyang in September for a third summit with his North Korean counterpart. The inter-Korean summit would focus on denuclearisation "regardless of whether Secretary Pompeo visits North Korea or not", the South Korean presidential office said on Thursday.
The opening of an inter Korean liaison office in the North Korean town of Kaesong has been delayed because of US concerns it would break UN sanctions, South Korean media reported.
Another pledge made by Moon and Kim, at their historic summit in April, to connect the Korean rail systems, has also faced apparent US opposition.
The US-led Joint UN Command blocked North Korea and South Korea from carrying out a joint survey for a cross-border railway last week, Yonhap reported. South Korean officials weren't permitted to cross the demilitarised zone on August 24.