United States President Donald Trump has claimed he is stopping Hong Kong from being obliterated by China.
He said he told Chinese President Xi Jinping not to send soldiers into Hong Kong because it would affect ongoing trade negotiations with the U.S.
In a phone interview with the Fox & Friends programme on Friday, Nov. 22, Trump said: "If it weren't for me, thousands of people would have been killed in Hong Kong right now."
"The only reason he's not going in is because I'm saying it's going to affect our trade deal."
"I stand with Hong Kong. I stand with freedom," the president said.
"But we're also in the process of making the largest trade deal in history. And if we could do that, that would be great. China wants it, we want it."
He added that Xi has "got a million soldiers standing outside of Hong Kong that aren't going in only because I asked him, 'Please don't do that, it's going to make a tremendous negative impact on the trade deal.'"
On the Hong Kong unrest, Trump said: "That's a complicating factor, no question about it. If it weren't for me, Hong Kong would have been obliterated in about 14 minutes."
Would Trump back legislation that mandates sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials?
Trump would not say explicitly if he will sign bills passed by Congress backing Hong Kong's protesters, which would mandate sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses against protesters.
The bill also requires an annual review of the favourable trade status that Washington grants Hong Kong.
Chinese officials have urged Trump to veto the legislation.
He had been expected to sign the measure as soon as Friday.
"We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I'm also standing with President Xi," Trump said in the interview.
He explained that it was important to negotiate a trade deal.
A Chinese official said Thursday that trade talks between the two countries remain on track.
Trump's views on Hong Kong the first time he said he has intervened
Trump's claim that he is preventing further violence in Hong Kong is the first time that he has publicly said that he has intervened in the situation.
Xi said earlier on Friday that his nation wants to work toward a phase one trade agreement with the U.S. on the "basis of mutual respect and equality", his first comments on a partial deal he could potentially sign with Trump.
The Trump administration has import taxes in place on some US$360 billion (S$491 billion) in goods from China and has threatened to impose new levies on Dec. 15.
"The bottom line is we have a very good chance to make a deal," Trump said on Friday.
Top photo via Getty