Trump's action amounts to a request that his trade representative determine whether an investigation is needed under the Trade Act of 1974.
Bedminster, N.J.: Even as he seeks Beijing's help on North Korea, President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order asking his trade office to consider investigating China for the alleged theft of American technology and intellectual property, an administration official said Saturday.
President Trump's pattern continues: "Tough talk on China, but weaker action than anyone could ever imagine", he said in a statement.
A Section 301 investigation normally lasts one year. If an investigation begins, the United States government could seek remedies either through the World Trade Organization or outside of it.
Should an investigation find wrongdoing, Trump could impose tariffs against Chinese imports, which would mark a significant escalation in his efforts to reshape the trade relationship between the world's two largest economies.
France is a member of the Security Council, which approved fresh sanctions on North Korea this month for its recent intercontinental ballistic missile testing.
Trump has suggested he would go easier on China if it were more forceful in getting North Korea to rein in its nuclear weapons programme. "And I think China will do a lot more". Pyongyang this week threatened to fire missiles near the USA territory of Guam during an exchange of bellicose rhetoric with Trump.
In a background briefing with reporters on Saturday, White House officials pointed to frustration from USA businesses that they have to share intellectual property with China as a condition for doing business in the country.
It wasn't immediately clear how China would react to the move.
Gordon Sun (孫明德), director of the Economic Forecasting Center under the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, warned that if the USA eventually imposes trade sanctions against China, "Taiwan should not take pleasure in (China's) misfortune".
Trump, in the past, has tied trade policy to national security.
"Most Americans are fully aware that China is stealing our intellectual property", they added. "The results are there for all to see".
The decision will not only take action against alleged Chinese violations of USA companies' intellectual property rights, but could also be perceived as an attempt by the US government to crank up the pressure on Beijing to rein in North Korea.
Trump was reported to direct U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to determine if an investigation is warranted of "any of China's laws, policies, practices or actions that may be unreasonable or discriminatory, and that may be harming American intellectual property, innovation and technology".
Asked Friday if the USA was going to war, he said cryptically, "I think you know the answer to that". Trump has previously expressed frustration that China hasn't done more to economically punish North Korea.
The trade investigation is expected to be only one part of a multi-pronged push by the Trump administration to counter perceived Chinese trade abuses, which Trump frequently railed against as a candidate.
The paper said, "The powerful revolutionary Paektusan army of the DPRK, capable of fighting any war the USA wants, is now on the standby to launch fire into its mainland, waiting for an order of final attack".