“President Xi has agreed to put fentanyl on his list of deadly, deadly drugs and it’s a criminal penalty, and the penalty is death,” the US president told reporters outside the White House.
“So that’s frankly one of the things I’m most excited about in our trade deal. If you wanna know the truth, I think there’s no more important point.”
The revelation came during a statement in the Rose Garden intended to announce his controversial decision to enact emergency powers to fund a border wall.
In a speech that frequently veered far off topic, the US president said during a meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping that he raised the issue of “tremendous amounts” of the opioid fentanyl “coming into our country”.
He claimed he told Mr Xi, ”I’d love you to declare it a lethal drug, and put it on your criminal list”, which he said would mean “a thing called the death penalty” for offenders.
Appearing to briefly impersonate Mr Xi, Mr Trump claimed the Chinese premier said China had no problem, and that he said it was because of the “death penalty. We give death penalty to people that sell drugs”.
The alleged agreement over fentanyl was, Mr Trump said, part of ongoing trade deal discussions which Mr Trump said may be extended beyond its 1 March deadline.
Amid his comments about the Chinese death penalty, the US president announced a series of executive actions along the US-Mexico border, including declaring a national emergency.
Mr Trump said he would at the same time sign a federal funding bill to avoid another government shutdown, which was approved by Congress on Thursday.
The measure includes just $1.4bn (£1bn) for “border barriers”, much less than what the president had previously demanded, and less than previous bipartisan measures had approved for barrier funding.
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