U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday he and Chinese President Xi Jinping "want to see it go well in Hong Kong" amid ongoing trade talks to end a bitter trade dispute between the two countries.
"I have a very good relationship, as you know, with President Xi. We're in the final throes of a very important deal, I guess you could say one of the most important deals in trade ever. It's going very well but at the same time we want to see it go well in Hong Kong," Trump said.
Trump's Oval Office remarks came as Washington waits to see if the president will sign legislation passed by the House and Senate to support Hong Kong protesters.
The legislation has angered China, who has called it interference in an internal affair. Trump has been non-committal about whether he would sign the measure into law as he tries to close a deal with China to end the 16-month trade war.
Trump did suggest, however, that the issues behind the unrest in Hong Kong would eventually be resolved.
"I think that President Xi can make that happen," Trump said. "I know him and I know he'd like to make it happen."
Trump raised questions about his commitment to standing up to defend freedoms in Hong Kong in August when he described the mass street protests there as "riots" that China must address.
Trump again referred to "riots" on Friday, but he has also urged China to handle the protests humanely, while warning repeatedly of their impact on trade negotiations.
The U.S. legislation requires the U.S. State Department to certify at least annually that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to justify favorable U.S. trading terms that have helped the semi-autonomous city maintain its position as a world financial center.
The measure also threatens sanctions for human rights violations.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was asked at a Washington news conference Tuesday whether he expected Trump to approve the legislation.
Pompeo said he did not want to "get out in front of what he will do before too long," but added that the State Department would comply with whatever it was required to do by statute.
Any veto by the president can be overridden by two-thirds votes in both the Senate and the House.
The bill will automatically become law on Dec. 3 if Trump chooses to do nothing.