President Trump is likely to bring up the enforcement of sanctions against North Korea when he meets with President Xi Jinping of China this month, Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday.
Mr. Pence, who is in Singapore for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit meeting, was responding to reports that China might be easing sanctions against North Korea, which would be a blow to the American-led effort to economically isolate the North over its weapons programs.
“We believe China is doing more than they’ve ever done before,” Mr. Pence said. “The president is grateful for that.”
But he added that he expected Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi to discuss the issue of “enforcement of those sanctions — and really the unique role that China can play in ensuring” the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The two leaders will meet at the end of the month at the Group of 20 gathering in Buenos Aires.
Mr. Pence’s remarks came after the release of a congressional report that said China appeared to have eased up on the enforcement of sanctions against North Korea. The annual report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission asked the United States Treasury Department to list Chinese businesses, entities and individuals doing business with North Korea that might be subject to United States sanctions.
Mr. Pence also said that he had had a cordial encounter with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Tuesday at the gala dinner hosted by the regional bloc, known as Asean.
“We exchanged greetings, but nothing more than that,” he said of Mr. Putin, whose July meeting with Mr. Trump drew fierce criticism in the United States over what many viewed as Mr. Trump’s fawning behavior.
Mr. Pence is essentially standing in for Mr. Trump at the Asean meeting, and the president’s absence was conspicuous; not only is Mr. Putin in Singapore, but Mr. Xi will attend the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders forum this weekend in Papua New Guinea.
Mr. Trump won’t be there either, raising questions about the United States’ commitment to its allies as China seeks to expand its influence in the region.
In something of a diplomatic whirlwind, Mr. Pence also met with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and tried to dispel any suggestion that South Korea was veering away from Washington’s tough line against the North by holding recent talks with North Korean officials.
Mr. Pence said he had discussed the United Nations sanctions with Mr. Moon and that “he assured me that as those inter-Korean talks take place, there will continue to be very close coordination with the United States, and also that South Korea remains committed to fully implementing all of the U.N. resolutions and sanctions.”
He said he had told Mr. Moon that the United States sought to avoid “the mistakes of the past,” referring to North Korea’s broken promises after previous talks with the United States.
He added that South Korea “again today renewed their commitment to work very closely with the U.S.” ahead of a planned second summit meeting between Mr. Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, which is expected in the new year.