Trump personally asks China's Xi to help LiAngelo Ball

Getty Images

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David Pressman, a former USA ambassador to the United Nations under President Obama, said Trump arrived in Asia without a North Korea strategy and left without one.

Freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were detained last Tuesday on suspicion of shoplifting sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team's hotel in Hangzhou.

Trump raised the issue with Xi during a dinner held during the USA leader's November 8-10 state visit to Beijing, said the official, who spoke to Reuters in Manila.

"What they did was unfortunate", Trump said.

With the players stranded in China and at the mercies of the Chinese legal system, President Trump reached out to China's leader to ask him to look into the case, according to the Washington Post.

Chinese authorities told the Post that the charges have been downgraded and the case against them is on a fast track toward resolution. On Monday, ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that three American men were being investigated in the eastern city of Hangzhou for alleged theft and that China and the US were in contact over the matter.

According to the White House official, Xi said he would be helpful and look into the matter. Three players were questioned from each team. Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry, said the case had been reported to USA authorities, saying, "China is handling this case in accordance with the law, and will guarantee the rights in accordance with the law, for those involved in this case". Trump called on China for the umpteenth time to strengthen sanctions on North Korea; Xi said nothing, and the Chinese press removed Trump's comments.

Alford rejoined the rest of UCLA's team in Shanghai on Wednesday morning after the players were released. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who oversees the State Department, also might have spoken about the case with Trump, the official said.

Trump learned about the details of the cases from aides, including Kelly, said the official familiar with the internal discussions.

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