"Trade is trade; national security is national security", said one official, who, like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with administration practice.
Mr Trump's threat to investigate China's IP and trade practices is valid, but his administration may not be up to the delicate task of carrying out a new China probe without sparking a damaging trade war, U.S. business lobbyists said.
Tension between Washington and Pyongyang keeps ratcheting up as U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un trade heated threats.
In a call Friday, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed that North Korea must stop its "provocative and escalatory behavior" and reaffirmed their commitment to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, the White House said. If an investigation begins, the USA government could seek remedies either through the World Trade Organization or outside of it.
Trump, in the past, has tied trade policy to national security.
Trump on Thursday hardened his warning that North Korea would face "fire and fury" if it kept threatening the U.S., saying maybe that tough talk "wasn't tough enough".
"China's been engaged in the theft and forced transfer of US technologies and intellectual property for years".
Speaking to MSNBC's Chris Hayes, Col Wilkerson said that the country needed to get away from the grand rhetoric that President Trump had been using and criticised the President for his words, saying that this was not the way to conduct American foreign policy, and comparing the President's approach to that of North Korea's leader. This past week, Trump said he could soften his views on trade if China stepped up its assistance, leading to speculation that the investigation could be a negotiating tactic.
At the end of March, Trump asked the Commerce Department to prepare a report on the causes of the trade deficit, country by country and product by product, in 90 days.
Like the president, Lighthizer has criticized multilateral venues like the World Trade Organization for failing to provide adequate tools to address China's economic violations. Lighthizer can do so under Section 302 (b) of the Trade Act of 1974, which outlines the process by which USTR can initiate an investigation "by means other than petition", a senior official told reporters on August 12.
Kennedy of CSIS says business leaders express a range of opinions, depending on how much they discrimination they face in China and how key Chinese profits are to their business. Trump made addressing the USA trade deficit with China a centerpiece of his campaign past year and has suggested raising tariffs on goods from China.